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life is not a love song (we can try to fix our broken pieces one at a time)

Chapter Text

Beca opens her eyes as she feels the cab come to a stop. She lifts her head from its slumped position and looks out the window of the vehicle, squinting in distaste at what she sees.

It wasn’t Beca’s plan to go to college. She wasn’t one of those teenagers that fantasized about living in a dorm, earning their degree, and meeting some cute boy to have babies with. That just wasn’t Beca.

Her father, however, had different plans for her. As soon as Dr. Mitchell learned that his only child had no plans of pursuing higher education, he’d thrown a fit. Well, it was a very grown-up, professional fit, Beca would give him that, but a fit nonetheless.

At least, that’s what Beca told herself to make herself feel better about this whole situation.

So as Beca looked out the cab window at all the bright-eyed freshman running around Barden University’s campus, it was safe to say that she was less than thrilled to be there.

The cab driver unbuckles his seatbelt and starts to get out of the car, so Beca hurries to do the same. She makes her way to the trunk of the car, which the driver pops with a press of a button on his keys. A nearby housing attendant immediately rushes over to help unload her stuff. He reaches for the skateboard resting on top of all Beca’s luggage, but Beca holds out a hand to stop him.

“I got it,” she says, then pulls the board out of the trunk.

The dude just shrugs before beginning to unload the rest of her stuff.

Beca holds her board loosely by the truck and takes a moment to look around the campus before a perky blonde girl comes rushing over to her.

“Hi there! Welcome to Barden University,” she greets chirpily. “What dorm?”

Beca fights to urge to snicker at the excitement in her voice. “Uh, Baker Hall, I think,” she answers.

“Okay,” blondie says, turning around to point in the opposite direction. “So what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna go down this way, then you’re gonna take a right…”

The girl continues on with her directions and Beca quickly loses interest, glancing off to the side. A car pulls up beside her with the back windows rolled down. The guy singing along to the radio in the back seat notices Beca looking and props himself up to see her better. “Don’t you cry no more, no!” He points at Beca and starts air guitaring along with the music.

Beca watches him, unimpressed. He raises his eyebrows and grins at her, clearly impressed with his own skills. Beca humors him with an amused look before his car drives away.

Blondie is still talking, and Beca focuses on her again when she holds out a map towards Beca. “Your campus map,” she’s saying, “and your official BU rape whistle. Don’t blow it unless it’s actually happening,” Blondie advises seriously.

Beca ignores the map but takes the whistle from her hands and places it between her teeth without breaking eye contact. The girl lets out a small “hm” as Beca side-eyes her and walks away.

* * *

After Beca’s met her psychotic roommate, she decides to procrastinate the unpacking process and flops down on her unmade bed to scroll aimlessly through social media.

A few of her friends from high school had made posts about her leaving, most of them teasing her in some way. The majority of her friends were still all together in Seattle, opting not to go to college, so she was really one of the only ones that had had to say goodbye to everyone. Beca was envious of them.

Soft music starts playing from the other side of the room, some generic pop ballad that she’s vaguely heard playing on the radio before. She ignores it for the time being, focusing instead on commenting on her friend Derek’s photo of her on Instagram.

A few more minutes pass by with the songs changing every so often before Beca feels a headache coming on. She turns her head to glare at her roommate.

“If you’re going to play music, can you at least use headphones?” she asks irritably.

The other girl turns towards her and the two of them engage in a brief glaring war before Kimmy Jin reaches behind her and presses the space bar on her laptop. The room fills with silence once more.

Beca flashes a sarcastic smile in fake gratitude and turns her attention back on her phone. She’s watching a silent video of one of her friends doing a kickflip off a rail when there’s a knock on the door.

“Campus police, hide your wine coolers,” a muffled voice says from the other side. Beca glances up from her phone as the door opens and her dad’s head pokes in. He laughs and Beca rolls her eyes. “Just your old man, making a funny,” he says, stepping fully into the room.

Beca looks back down at her phone. “Chris Rock, everybody,” she mutters sarcastically.

Her dad ignores her, focusing instead on Kimmy Jin. “Hey, uh, you must be Beca’s roommate,” he starts awkwardly. “I’m Dr. Mitchell, Beca’s dad. I teach comparative literature here.”

Beca watches the exchange from her bed with slight amusement. When all he gets is an icy stare in return, her dad turns back to Beca. The humor immediately drops from her face.

“So, when did you get here? How did you get here?” he questions.

Beca stands up from the bed and busies herself with taking random things out of her bags, placing them on the desk. “Took a cab. Didn’t want to inconvenience you and Sheila,” she replies breezily. “How is the Step-Monster?” Beca adds as an afterthought.

Her dad scoffs. “She’s fine, actually. She’s actually in Vegas at a conference for-”

“Oh, I don’t actually care,” Beca interrupts, turning towards him. “I just wanted to say Step-Monster.

He sighs. “So have you been down to the quad yet?” he asks, trying desperately to salvage this interaction. “In the summer the students like to lay around in the grass and-”

“I don’t want to lay around in the grass, Dad,” Beca cuts him off again. “I want go back to Seattle and start looking for a job, not take classes and waste my time here.”

Her dad rolls her eyes. “Oh, so you mean you want to goof around with those druggie skateboarders you spend all your time with and work at a McDonald’s for the rest of your life?” Beca scoffs and turns away to pull things out of her bag again. “Face it, Beca. You don’t know what you want to do with your life.”

“I know what I don’t want to do,” Beca mumbles under breath.

“We’ve been over this before. College is the best way to find some direction in your life, Beca,” her dad lectures. “So before you go try to ruin your life, you’re going to get a college education. For free, I might add.”

Before Beca can come up with a sarcastic reply, Kimmy Jin turns in her chair. “I’m going to the activities fair,” she deadpans and stands up to leave.

Beca seizes the chance to escape. “Me too,” she quickly says, following Kimmy Jin to the door. “I’m going to the activities fair with my super good friend Kimmy Jin.”

She thinks that her dad might protest, but by the time he starts she’s already half way down the hallway.

* * *

Beca knows Kimmy Jin was just at her side. They walked down to the quad together, albeit in silence, but they were definitely together. The only problem now is that Beca can’t find the damn girl.

She takes some time searching the crowd for her frightening roommate, and spots her over by the Asian Student Union booth. Kimmy Jin is smiling, and seems to have completely forgotten about Beca.

Huffing out a breath, Beca rolls her eyes and begins to wander aimlessly among the booths. She lazily looks to read signs and posters advertising various on-campus groups, but doesn’t take time to consider anything. Nothing here was of interest to her, and she was planning on getting away from Barden University as soon as possible, so there was no point in actually paying attention to anything going on around her.

She was away from her dad, and that was the important thing.

Still, there were a few eye-catching booths here and there. Beca spotted a DJ stand, and upon further observation discovered it was actually for Deaf Jews. There were a bunch of people running around in circles, though Beca didn’t know if that was an organization or just people doing it for fun. All around, Beca was pretty unimpressed.

Then, out of the corner of her eye, Beca finally sees something worthwhile. There was a simple booth near the end of the line with the words “Barden Skate Shop” at display. Beca saw a bored looking blonde dude sitting behind the table handing out fliers and immediately begins to make her way over.

Before she can get very far, a white piece of paper appears under her nose and a voice cuts through the noise around her.

“Hi! Any interest in joining our a cappella group?”

Beca stops short and looks down at the paper before hesitantly taking it and turning to face the girl who stopped her. The girl has wavy ginger hair and the bluest eyes Beca has ever seen. There’s a tall blonde standing next to her who seems like she’s trying to force a smile onto her face.

Turning her eyes back towards the paper in her hands, Beca takes a moment to actually see what’s on it. It’s very amateur-looking, with cut out pictures of girls singing glued over blue shapes and hand drawn music notes decorating the page. The name Barden Bellas is written elegantly at the top.

“Oh, right,” Beca says, holding back a laugh as she looks back at the two girls. “This is like, a thing now.”

“Oh, totes,” the ginger says seriously, nodding her head. “We sing covers of songs but we do it without any instruments,” she goes on to explain. “It’s all from our mouths.”

Beca can’t help the small “yikes” that slips out of her own mouth at the words. She sees the blonde girl’s smile become a little more strained.

Seemingly undeterred, the redhead continues on. “There are four groups on campus. The Bellas,” she says, gesturing between herself and her companion. “That’s us; we’re the tits.”

She goes on to name all the other groups and Beca zones out, chancing a glance over at the Skate Shop booth. The one guy sitting at it doesn’t seem like he’s going anywhere anytime soon, but Beca still wished that she could get out of this conversation to go check it out.

Two hums from in front of her bring her attention back on the a cappella girls. “So, are you interested?” ginger asks.

Beca fights the instinct to roll her eyes and tries for a smile instead. She’ll let them down fast and easy so that she can get the hell out of there.

“Sorry, it’s just… it’s pretty lame.”

Or she’ll go with that. That’s cool, too.

Ginger’s bright smile slides off her face and she looks downward. The blonde, who’s been silent so far, looks like she’s been struck. “Aca-scuse me?” she says indignantly, anger flashing in her eyes. “Synchronized lady dancing to a Mariah Carey chart-topper is not lame.”

Beca stares at the girl in confusion, wondering how she didn’t think the words coming out of her mouth were, in fact, lame.

“We sing all over the world and compete in national competitions,” the redhead tries again. Beca’s eyes flicker to hers.

“On purpose?” Beca asks before she can stop herself.

“We played the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, you bitch,” the blonde says sweetly, an over polite smile on her face and murder in her eyes.

Beca raises her eyebrows and fights off a grin, suddenly very impressed with the tall blonde. Her eyes switch back over to ginger as she speaks again.

“What Aubrey means to say,” the ginger cuts in, glancing at her friend, “is that we are a close-knit, talented group of ladies who’s dream is to return to the national finals at Lincoln Center this year.” Beca glances to the side exasperatedly, suddenly very tired of this interaction. When she looks back, sincere blue eyes are locked onto her own. “Help us turn our dreams into a reality?” the girl asks, hesitance in her voice and a small smile playing at the edge of her lips.

Beca looks at her for a moment before deciding to show them some mercy and not reply with any more biting comments. “Sorry, I don’t even sing, and I’m not really that big into music in general, but it was really nice to meet you guys.”

She begins to walk away and spares one last glance at the ginger’s crestfallen expression before heading in the direction of the skating booth, determined to not let the interaction get in the way of what she wants to do.

It was just a cappella. It was just music.

And Beca had promised herself that she would never let herself get sucked into music again.

Chapter Text

Beca taps her toes against the floor as best as she can from where they dangle in the air. The chair she sits in is small, but not quite small enough that her feet can completely touch the floor.  

She stares out the window at all the kids running around waiting for either their parents to pick them up or for the bus to arrive. Two girls are playing some sort of hand game that Beca’s tried to learn before, but could never quite get down. She would have to ask them to teach her tomorrow at recess.

Someone knocks on the door of the classroom, followed by the door opening. Beca whips her head around to see who it is.

“Daddy!” she exclaims when she sees him standing in the doorway. She slips out of her chair and runs over to him, hugging his leg.

Her dad smiles down at her. “Hey, Bug,” he says, ruffling the hair on the top of her small head. Beca giggles. He turns his attention towards Beca’s kindergarten teacher, who has just stood up from behind her desk. “What seems to be the problem, Mrs. Cook?”

Mrs. Cook smiles kindly at him. “It’s really not a big issue, I can assure you, Mr. Mitchell,” she says. “Beca is an excellent student; always so nice to her classmates and very eager to learn.”

Beca beams proudly up at her father. He smiles down at her and pats her head. “Well, I’m glad to hear that, but what is it you called me in for?”

Mrs. Cook laces her fingers together in front of her and presses her lips together momentarily. “Well, as enthusiastic as Beca is to learn, she is also enthusiastic about many other things as well,” she starts. “Your daughter has taken a liking to singing lately, and I’m afraid it’s becoming quite disruptive to the rest of the class.”

“My daughter is in trouble… for singing?” her dad asks, sounding confused. Beca also looks at her teacher in confusion, afraid that she’s about to get yelled at.

“Oh no, she’s not in trouble,” Mrs. Cook quickly assures. “We encourage all forms of expression and art at this school, so her singing is not a concern of mine. I just wanted to let you know of this so that we can work together to take steps that will prevent further disruption in a classroom setting. Perhaps letting Beca join some sort of choir will help her to channel her creative energy in a more appropriate environment.”

Beca’s dad thinks about it for a moment. “I guess that makes sense,” he finally decides. He crouches down so that he’s more eye level with Beca.

“Am I in trouble, Daddy?” Beca asks timidly, eyes looking down to the floor.

Her dad chuckles softly. “No, Bug, you’re not in trouble,” he tells her, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear, causing her to look back up at him. “You like singing, Beca?”

Beca nods her head enthusiastically, grin returning to her face. Her dad smiles back at her, the corners of his eyes crinkling.

“Do you want to sing more? With some of your friends, maybe?”

Beca’s smile widens even more. “Yes!” she exclaims.

Her dad laughs and straightens up, taking her small hand in his. He reaches out to shake Mrs. Cook’s hand with his other one. “Thank you for telling me this. We’ll help Beca learn when she should and shouldn’t, uh, share her gifts, I guess.”

Mrs. Cook laughs kindly and says goodbye to Beca and her father. The two of them walk down the hall towards the front door of the school, Beca bouncing up and down in excitement the whole way.

Her dad turns on Frank Sinatra in the car on the way home, and the two of them croon along to the best of their abilities. Beca laughs at her dad as he exaggerates how high some of the notes are, and she thinks that there can’t possibly be anything better in life than this moment right now.

* * *

The store that Beca walks into is small, overcrowded, and looks like it hasn’t been thoroughly dusted in years.

It’s essentially a garage of sorts, with a hangar door along the back wall, concrete floors, and a small office in the back corner. Shelves full of various parts and equipment line one wall while skateboards are displayed along the other. The middle of the room is taken up by a stained couch and a clustered coffee table.

Beca loves it.

She wanders over to the skateboards on display and peruses the various brands and styles available. There wasn’t a huge variety, and there definitely wasn’t anything super noteworthy, but Beca didn’t mind.

It was enough.

A door opening made her turn away from the boards. The blond guy from the booth steps out of the office, beanie on his head and an unlit cigarette in hand. He seems surprised to see her for a moment, so he must not have heard Beca walk in.

“Hey, you’re that girl from the activities fair,” he says in a smooth British accent. He speaks slowly, as if giving her the chance to correct him. “Becky, right?”

“It’s Beca, actually,” Beca corrects, watching him walk over to the coffee table. “And you’re... Luke?” He glances over his shoulder at her and grins.

“Right,” he confirms. Luke stoops down to pick up a lighter off the low table and turns to face her. “What can I do for you, Beca?”

“Um, I was wondering if that job opening on your flier was still open,” she says, pulling out said flier from her bag.

She offers the paper out to Luke, which he takes and spares a glance at before dropping it on the table next to him. “Yeah, it’s still open. It’s not like anyone else has come by for the position, anyways.”

Beca feels a small bit of excitement bloom in her chest. “So could I maybe get an interview or something?”

Luke pauses for a moment to look her up and down, taking her in. Beca’s not wearing anything too fancy; just her usual open plaid shirt over a grey tank-top, with dark skinny jeans and an old pair of black converse. She hopes she wasn’t supposed to be dressed up for this.

“You know anything about skateboards?” Luke asks at last.

“I do, actually,” Beca responds. “I’ve got my own board, and I do a lot of skating in my free time. If you want I can show you a few of my moves and-”

“Okay, sounds good to me,” Luke interrupts before she can finish. Beca raises her eyebrows at him.

“What?”

Luke shrugs. “You seem legit,” he says simply. “Plus, it’s not like you’ll be doing much anyways. Mostly just cleaning up around here and making sure people don’t hang around if they’re high off their asses.”

Beca nods her head. “Yeah, I- I can totally do that. That sounds totally cool.”

Luke chuckles and walks back over to the office to retrieve some papers. “If you keep showing that much enthusiasm for everything, it’ll be real obvious to everyone that comes in here that you’re a freshman,” he teases, handing the papers to Beca. “Fill those out and I’ll let you know when you can start.”

Beca eyes light up. “Really? So I got the job?”

“Yep, you did. An impressive feat, really, considering all your competition,” Luke says sarcastically, gesturing grandly around the room. He heads in the direction of the door, lighter and cigarette in hand. “I’m gonna go take a smoke real fast. Let me know when you’re done filling out those forms, Becky.”

He slips out the door and although Beca wants to be annoyed with him for his arrogance, she can’t quite find it within herself to care. The skate shop wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely the best thing about Barden so far.

* * *

The shaking of her shoulder wakes Beca up from her deep slumber. She blinks groggily up at the person responsible for the end of her sleep.

“Beca, wake up.”

It’s her dad.

Beca suddenly wishes that she would fall back asleep and never wake up.

Nevertheless, Beca groans and rubs at her eyes to let him know that she was mostly awake.

Her dad looks around her room. “Funny, this doesn’t look like your Intro to Philosophy class,” he says with fake surprise.

He’s trying to be funny. At – Beca glances at the time – 11:36 in the morning.

Okay, so it wasn’t that early. But still. She didn’t appreciate it.

“I’m posing an important philosophical question,” she says tiredly, pushing herself up into a sitting position. “If I don’t actually go to that class, will it still suck?”

From the other side of the room, Kimmy Jin turns around momentarily to glare briefly at Beca. Beca just stares right back.

“Oh, come on, Bec,” her father sighs. “You’ve been here, what, a month? Have you made any friends?”

“Kimmy Jin is my friend.”

A sharp “nope” sounds from the other side of the room and Beca shoots a glare at the back of Kimmy Jin’s head.

Good for nothing traitor.

Beca pushes the covers off her legs and stands up to retrieve a hoodie from her closet.

“Have you done anything in your time here other than skip your classes?” her dad continues to question her.

“I got a job at the skate shop,” she answers defensively.

Her dad scoffs. “Oh great, that place. It’s dark and dirty and has, like, what? Those three weirdos that work there?”

Beca holds a hand up to her chest, gesturing to herself. “Well, four, now.”

He sighs in response. “You really don’t want to be here?”

Beca rolls her eyes. “Gee, where’d you get idea from?” she says sarcastically.

“You know what, fine,” her dad suddenly says. Beca perks up instantly, interested in his apparent change of heart. “I’ll make you a deal. If you put in effort and do well in your classes, get involved in some way or another, and still don’t want to be here by the end of the year, you can quit college. And I will help you pay rent for an apartment in Seattle until you find a job.”

Beca’s eyes widen in surprise and excitement. “Seriously?” she asks, not totally convinced that this was real.

“Yes, seriously,” her dad says, then points at her. “But I really need to see it, Bec.” He heads back towards the door to leave. “This is college, join in!”

The door shuts behind him, and Beca stays standing in the middle of her room, unsure of what to do with this new possibility. She picks up her phone to check the time.

11:45.

Beca quickly strips off her clothes and replaces them with her dark blue robe before packing up her shower stuff. If she hurries, she could probably get ready in time for her 12:30 class.

There’s a grin on her face as she rushes down the hall towards the communal bathrooms, and for the first time since arriving at Barden she feels a glimmer of hope inside.

If it would get her out of here faster, she would be the best damn student this trash pile of a university has ever seen.

* * *

Beca’s in such a good mood on her way to the showers that she allows herself to sing quietly under her breath as she walks past empty stall after empty stall before stopping front of one. Because Titanium is actually fairly catchy and she’s feeling optimistic damnit.

She stops in front of one of the stalls and slips her robe off before stepping into the shower and shutting the curtain behind her. She turns on the water and continues to sing – it’s more like humming, really – under her breath.

“Bulletproof, nothin’ to lose. Fire away, fire away. Ricochet, you take your aim,” Beca sticks her hand under the water to check the temperature and a cold brush of air behind her is her only warning before a voice speaks up from behind her.

“You can sing!”

Beca whirls around in surprise. “Dude!” she exclaims, grabbing the shower curtain and pulling it shut in an effort to protect herself.

The curtain is ripped back open a moment later. “How high does your belt go?” A hand reaches through the water to shut it off, and Beca finally takes a moment to actually register who has joined her in her shower stall.

The ginger from the activities fair stands before her, apparently unashamed of her total nudity. Beca blushes furiously and desperately tries to cover herself with her arms. “My what? Oh my god,” she stammers.

“You have to audition for the Bellas,” the girl insists, seemingly oblivious to the discomfort she’s causing Beca.

“I can’t concentrate on anything you’re saying until you cover your junk,” Beca informs her, eyes directed at the ceiling.

“Just, consider it,” ginger pushes further while Beca tries to slyly grab the shower curtain to provide herself with more covering to her naked body. “One time, we sang back up for Prince,” the girl continues, as if the fact will convince Beca. “His butt is so tiny I can hold it with, like, one hand.”

She makes a gesture to demonstrate just how tiny Prince’s butt is, and when she brings her hand down it knocks all of the items Beca was clutching in her arms to the floor.

“Oops,” the girl says, sounding unconcerned.

This was surely how Beca was about to die; murdered in the nude by this admittedly beautiful, yet equally nude psycho.

“Oh, Jesus,” Beca mumbles as she turns away from the invader so that her front is pressed up against the tile wall. “Seriously?” Beca spits out, peeking over her shoulder. “I am nude.”

The girl chooses that moment to advance, leaning in towards Beca. “You were singing Titanium, right?” she asks earnestly.

“Uh, yeah, I guess,” Beca says, not sure why the fact is relevant.

“That song is my jam,” the ginger says, leaning even closer to Beca. Her voice drops in volume. “My lady jam.”

“That’s nice,” Beca says quickly, turning her face towards the wall again.

“It is,” the girl says cheerfully. “That song really builds.”

Beca looks over at her again just in time to catch the wink thrown her way.

Oh hell.

“Gross.”

Psycho girl is silent for a moment before speaking again. “Can you sing it for me?”

Beca’s stomach launches into her throat. “Dude, no!” she sputters, followed by a desperate, “get out!”

“Not for that reason,” the redhead claims. “I’m not leaving here until you sing, so.”

After that the girl is silent. Beca sneaks a peek again and watches as she takes a deep breath and lets it out in an airy sigh.

She was joking right? She had to be joking.

Apparently she was not joking. Ginger kept patiently waiting.

Beca resists the urge to let out a frustrated groan and instead shoots the other girl a tight, close-lipped smile. She hesitantly turns around and crosses her arms over her chest, eyes looking everywhere but at the naked woman in front of her.

When Beca starts to sing, she does so with no idea of where she should start or how long she’s supposed to sing for. Her eyes dart around, and she prays that the ginger will let her go soon.

What Beca does not expect is for the other girl to start singing with her. Beca’s eyes lock onto clear blue ones as they begin to harmonize with one another, their voices blending together to bounce off the walls of the vacant bathroom. Beca forgets about the fact that they’re both naked, forgets that she doesn’t even know this girl. She’s so mesmerized by the music they are creating that all her worries fly away.

Their singing comes to an end and Beca can’t help the small smile that appears on her face. Her companion smiles as well, and Beca finally takes a minute to recognize her beauty.

Which reminds her.

Beca clears her throat and glances down at the other girl’s body briefly before looking pointedly away. She makes a surprised noise.

“Oh! Yeah, sorry,” the girl says, not sounding sorry in the slightest. “I’m pretty confident about,” she gestures to her body, “all this.”

Beca looks her up and down once more. “You should be,” she says, feeling her cheeks heat up.

The girl grabs Beca’s towel from where it’s hanging outside the stall and hands it to Beca with a smile. Beca clings it to her chest gratefully. “I still need to shower,” she says awkwardly.

“Oh, of course! I’ll get out of your way, now,” she girl says quickly. She starts walking backwards out of the stall, but her eyes remain on Beca. “See you at auditions?”

“Sure,” Beca says uncertainly.

The redhead seems to accept that. “Great! I’m Chloe, by the way. In case you were wondering,” she winks before turning around and suddenly she’s gone as quickly as she appeared.

Beca shakes her head in disbelief and rips the shower curtain closed after hanging up her towel again. She turns the water on cold and sticks her head under the spray, hoping the icy droplets are enough to force the shock out of her system.

* * *

Beca doesn’t end up going to her 12:30 class.

Which is understandable, she thinks. After all, she did just get accosted in a shower stall.

She chooses to skate for a while instead. To clear her head.

Since Beca still doesn’t know the area very well and the nearest skate park is about five miles away, she decides on a leisurely ride; more just rolling around than anything. She ends up by the lake near campus, looping around the perimeter and watching the wind cause ripples in the clear blue water surface.

The events of the past hour run in circles around her head. First, her dad tells her that she can quit school. Then, a strange, psychotic girl barges into her shower and forces her to sing a duet with her.

Beca honestly doesn’t know which is more surprising.

She definitely knows which is worse, though.

Beca doesn’t think she’s been more uncomfortable in her life than she was when that girl invaded her shower. More than just the fact that she was left totally exposed in front of a perfect stranger, she had had to sing for the stranger as well. And Beca didn’t sing. She didn’t sing and was upset that she had to in order to get the strange girl away.

What was also upsetting was the fact that she’d almost… enjoyed it.

Which was decidedly weird and not okay.

But still… when the two of them had been harmonizing together and their voices had blended together so beautifully, Beca had felt calm. At peace.

Comfortable.

It had almost been enough to make her nostalgic for a time when things were better, before her life had gone to shit. Before-

No, Beca didn’t want to think about the past. No good ever came from thinking about the past.

Beca hits an uneven slab of concrete on the sidewalk, and her skateboard veers off course. She hops off quickly before she can wipe out, letting the board skid off a ways in front of her. With a sigh, she walks over to retrieve it before making her way over to a bench overlooking the lake to rest for a while.

She plops down on the hard wood surface and reaches into her hoodie pocket, pulling out a cigarette and a lighter. She hesitates for moment before putting the stick in her mouth and flicking the lighter to life.

Beca inhales the smoke deeply before letting it out in a cloud slowly, relishing in the familiar sense of calm it brings to her anxious thoughts.

Her thoughts switch from the awkward shower encounter to the conversation with her dad. She could be done with college at the end of the year, but only if she got involved and kept her grades up. The grades she could deal with; if she started going to class and actually payed attention, those would stay up naturally. The whole ‘getting involved’ thing was a little more difficult.

She assumed he wouldn’t count her job as being involved, so she had to figure out something else that he would deem acceptable. The only problem was, Beca wasn’t exactly super stoked about the thought of joining any of the clubs she had seen at the activities fair.

Beca takes a long pull from her cigarette and goes over her options for a while. When she doesn't come up with any good possibilities, she sighs in defeat and slouches down on the bench in dismay, sure that she’ll never come up with a good solution.

After a while, her traitorous mind drifts towards the shower incident again, specifically the end of it. See you at auditions, the redhead had said.

No, that wasn’t an option, Beca thought. She had promised herself that she wasn’t going to deal with music anymore. She didn’t want it in her life; didn’t need it in her life. Joining an a cappella group – gag – simply wasn’t an option.

Beca would figure something else out. She was not going to auditions.

* * *

She was at auditions.

Beca stands backstage, watching various singers belting as high as they can for the groups sitting in the audience. Her hand taps her thigh anxiously.

What was she doing here?

She didn’t like singing, she thought a cappella was lame, she didn’t even know the song everyone has been auditioning with. This was a horrible idea. She should just get out of here before-

“Okay, and that’s the last of them!”

And there goes her chance. At least now she didn’t have to decide if she was actually going to go through with it or not.

She hesitantly steps more towards the edge of the curtains to sneak one last peak of the room. A scrawny pale dude is jabbering away about how crappy everyone who tried out was while everyone starts packing up their stuff. Beca shrugs and takes one step back to slip out without anyone noticing she was even there.

“Oh, wait! There’s one more!”

Shit.

It was the girl from the shower. Chloe, if she remembers correctly. Of course.

Beca grits her teeth and walks out on stage. “Hello,” she says awkwardly, giving a little wave.

Chloe beams up at her and beckons her closer. The blonde from the activities fair (Aubrey?) stares coldly up at her. Beca chooses to focus exclusively on Chloe, since she’s the one who told her to come here.

“Um, I didn’t know we had to prepare that song,” she admits, feeling foolish.

“Oh, that’s okay,” Chloe assures her. “Sing anything you want.”

Panic grips Beca momentarily. She was not ready to do this.

Her eyes dart around the room as she tries to think of what to sing. She briefly considers I'm A Little Teacup before quickly dismissing the thought. Her gaze eventually lands on a bright yellow cup holding an array of pens sitting on the table in front of Chloe and Aubrey, and a terrible idea pops into Beca’s head.

She gets down on her knees and leans over to reach the table. “May I?” she asks, gesturing at the cup.

Chloe nods her head to let her know she doesn’t mind, so Beca awkwardly dumps the pens out and leans back onto the stage. She crosses her legs and takes a moment to get settled before glaring down at the cup. With a sigh, she claps her hands to begin the familiar song she’s known for so many years as an unwelcomed memory invades her mind.

*

Her dad, sitting in front of her on the ground, a cup moving skillfully in his hands as he sings a simple melody. Beca stares at him in wonder.

“Can you teach me that, Daddy?” she asks once his song is done, looking up at him with pleading blue eyes.

He smiles at her with a twinkle in his eye. “I don’t know, Bug. I’m not quite sure you possess the amount of skill needed to do this.”

Beca shakes her head. “I can do it,” she says confidently.

Her dad laughs before reaching behind his back to magically pull out a second cup. “I know you can. I have complete faith in you, Beca.”

*

The cup hits the stage one last time with a resounding thump. Beca retracts her hands immediately and folds them neatly in her lap. She looks briefly at Aubrey to see her pursing her lips in an unimpressed manner before looking back at Chloe. The smile on the ginger’s face is almost enough to balance out the regret overtaking Beca.

Almost, but not quite.

So, without another word, Beca stands up and walks off the stage, leaving the cup behind her. If she’s lucky, they won’t even pick her, and she can forget this whole stupid audition ever happened.

* * *

In hindsight, Beca should have known that her luck wouldn’t hold out. Perhaps the universe just enjoyed making Beca miserable, or maybe it was the fact that Chloe Beale always got her way. Nevertheless, Beca has lost all hope in ever having the odds in her favor ever again.

She stands at the top of an outdoor amphitheater, watching a cappella nerds mingle with each other, and wonders how the hell her life had gone downhill so quickly.

If there was a God, Beca wanted to have a few words with him.

The initiation ceremony she’d been dragged – literally dragged, with a hood on her head and everything – to had been frightening and confusing, to say the least. She doesn’t really remember most of the details of it, since she’s pretty sure her fight or flight instincts had been activated the moment the hood went over her head, but she’s pretty sure there had been something about wolves and vocal chords and blood of the sisters.

Honestly, what the hell.

Her inner anguish is interrupted when she spots a head of red hair rapidly approaching her. Beca doesn’t even have time to even think about running away before Chloe is grabbing her hands and pulling her close.

“I am so glad that I met you,” Chloe tells her sincerely, leaning her face in close to Beca’s. Her breath smells like whatever alcohol is available at this thing, and Beca momentarily wonders how much she’s already had to drink. Chloe leans closer still so that their foreheads are resting together. “I think, that we’re gonna be really fast friends.”

“Yeah,” Beca says amusedly. She doesn’t really know how to handle this whole situation, so she decides to fall back on sarcasm. “Well, you saw me naked, so,” she adds a wink to her statement without really thinking.

Chloe giggles and runs her hands up and down Beca’s arms. Beca tries not to shiver at the contact. “Have you had anything to drink yet?” she asks.

“Nope, but it seems like you have,” Beca replies.

A small expression of shock crosses Chloe’s face and she swats at Beca’s arm. “Oh, shut up. I’m not that drunk.” Beca can tell she’s not actually upset because her smile is still intact and a twinkle appears in her eye. Chloe reaches down to lace their fingers together and starts pulling her down the steps of the amphitheater. “Come get a drink with me. You need to un-grumpify yourself.”

Beca laughs and allows herself to be pulled along. She’s just taking the first sip of her drink, Chloe latched onto her arm as she talks with one of the new Bellas, when music starts playing. There’s a noise of approval from the crowd gathered together as everyone begins to dance. Chloe starts pushing Beca over to the dancing mass, but Beca slips her arm out from Chloe’s grasp.

“I actually think I’m going to head home,” she explains when Chloe looks at her questioningly. She pushes her drink into the ginger’s hands. “I’ve got a lot of homework to do.”

Chloe pouts. “But the music just started,” she says.

Beca shrugs. “Sorry, dude. I’ve gotta go.”

Chloe surprises Beca by pulling her into a tight but brief hug before letting her go with a “see you tomorrow!” Beca waves awkwardly goodbye and starts hiking back up the steps towards her dorm.

When she opens the door to her dark room, she doesn’t even bother turning on the light or changing her clothes. She just kicks off her shoes, sheds her jacket, and flops down on top of her bed.

The silence that surrounds her is blissful, but unfortunately it leaves her alone with her thoughts. Beca has done more singing in the past 48 hours than in the last three years. Her head pounds with a headache, and the emotions raging inside threaten to break free. Beca tries to push them down and ignore them, but they feel more fresh than they have for a long time.

With a sigh, she rolls onto her side and closes her eyes, hoping that if she goes to sleep now, she’ll wake up in the morning and discover that this whole mess was just one bad dream.

Chapter Text

Beca never thought she would see the day when she was excited to go to an a cappella rehearsal.

And she still never thought she would, because today was not that day.

After debating with herself for the better part of the day about whether or not she should actually go through with this whole a cappella thing, Beca ultimately decided that she had to stick it out. If she stuck to something terrible now, her miserable time spent in the horrid purgatory known as Barden would end sooner.

Beca just hoped it wouldn’t kill her before she got the chance to escape.

The doors to the rehearsal space creak slightly as she pulls them open. The large room she steps into smells like old wood and dust. There were steps with seats around the perimeter, and about a dozen foldout chairs were set up in front of a white board in the middle of the room. Most of the girls Beca had met at initiation were already there, sitting in the chairs and conversing while Chloe and Aubrey stood in front of them, discussing quietly with one another.

A black baby grand piano stands next to the set up, and Beca wrinkles her nose at it as she makes her way over to the rest of the girls. Chloe notices her approaching out of the corner of her eye and turns towards her, smiling brightly.

“Beca! You’re here!” she exclaims before leaving Aubrey’s side to skip her way over to Beca. Aubrey huffs in annoyance, but Beca ignores her.

“Don’t sound so surprised,” she says teasingly, stopping in front of Chloe. Chloe giggles and pulls Beca into an unexpected hug.

“I’m not surprised,” she speaks into Beca’s ear, causing a shiver to run down her spine. “Just excited to see you.”

Before Beca can decide what that means, Aubrey claps her hands loudly from the front of the group. “Alright, ladies. Everyone is here now, which means rehearsal has officially started. Please take a seat. Sopranos in the front and altos in the back.”

Chloe pulls somewhat reluctantly away from Beca and rejoins Aubrey at the front. Beca sits down at the end of the back row and tries to ignore the fact that she can still feel the ginger’s arms wrapped around her.

“As you can see, Kori is not here,” Aubrey starts. “Last night she was Treble-boned. She has been disinvited from the Bellas,” Aubrey continues, walking over to an empty chair in the front row and moving it aside.

A vague memory of saying her vocal chords would be ripped out by wolves floats into Beca’s mind and suddenly she remembers part of the oath she’d taken at initiation. “That oath was serious?”

“Dixie Chicks serious,” Aubrey affirms. Beca stares at her in confusion. “You can fool around with whoever you want to, just not a Treble.”

“That’s not gonna be easy,” Stacie in the front row says. She gestures in between her legs. “He’s a hunter.”

Beca smiles and stares in amazement at the busty brunette. “You call it a dude?” Stacie looks over her shoulder at Beca and grins, nodding her head and looking supremely proud of herself. Beca nods her head back, extremely satisfied with this new information.

Aubrey ruins the moment.  “Stacie, the Trebles don’t respect us,” she says, staring the girl down, “and if we let them penetrate us, we are giving them our power.”

Rather than fighting Aubrey on the matter, Stacie just closes her legs.

“Not a good enough reason to use the word ‘penetrate,’” the girl called Fat Amy points out.

Aubrey chooses to ignore her. “So, is there anyone here that has anything to confess?” she asks slowly, her eyes skimming the group before landing on the girl sitting on the other end of Beca’s row. Beca cranes her neck to see her shifting nervously in her seat.

The girl visibly tenses, and all at once her confession bursts from her. “It was an accident! I…”

Aubrey gives her a pitying smile and holds out her hand. “Turn in your scarf and go.”

The girl stares up at Aubrey in sorrow, her mouth open and closing for a few times before she begins to untie her Bellas scarf from her bag strap. She places it in Aubrey’s hand.

Aubrey makes a standing gesture, then points to the door. The girl starts walking out before Aubrey stops her. “Take your chair,” she tells her.

The girl grabs the back of her chair and begins to drag it behind her as she swiftly makes her way to the exit. She starts running halfway and drops the chair back on all four legs when she gets close to the door, crying as she pushes them open and leaves the room.

Beca watches all this with shock. “Was that necessary?” she asks Aubrey incredulously as soon as the girl has left, twisting back around in her seat to glare at the blonde.

“We are at war, Beca,” Aubrey says gravely. “I need to have my soldiers prepped and ready to go with three kick-ass songs,” she continues, starting to get worked up. “And if you don’t like the way I run things than you can just-”

Aubrey suddenly gags, holding up a fist to her mouth and turning around. Beca stares in confusion, and she sees the other girls doing the same.

Chloe rushes over to Aubrey, stroking a hand up and down the struggling girl’s back. “Breathe, Aubrey,” she says softly, though Beca can still hear her from where she sits. “We don’t want a repeat of what happened last year.”

Beca’s ears perk up at that, curiosity overcoming her. Luckily, she doesn’t have to be the one to ask. The Asian girl next to her – Lilly, she thinks – raises her hand.

Chloe points to her while Aubrey tries to compose herself. “What is it?” she implores kindly.

Lilly whispers something. Although she’s right next to her, Beca can’t even hear what she’s saying.

“I’m sorry, what are you saying?” Chloe asks.

“What happened last year?” Beca can just barely hear her the second time, but everyone else still looks confused.

“Uh, she’s wondering what happened last year,” Beca says louder. The rest of the group starts agreeing. Looks of uncertainty pass across Chloe and Aubrey’s faces.

Ten minutes and a disgusting, puke-filled YouTube video later, Aubrey attempts to refocus the group. “Enough,” she snaps, causing everyone to look back at her. Beca doesn’t know if she can ever look at her the same way. “It’s in the past. Now is time for the future. This is how we’ll become champions.”

Aubrey walks over to the whiteboard, flipping it over to reveal various rehearsal techniques and exercises.

Beca stifles a groan as she listens to Aubrey drawl on about all the things they have to do, regretting her life choices even more than before.

* * *

Beca doesn’t know how long they’ve been at rehearsal for, but it feels as though a lifetime has passed, and they still weren’t done.

She’s standing by the piano, listening to Aubrey ramble on beside her about proper breathing techniques, the importance of scales, and how to produce a good singing tone. Aubrey’s turned towards Beca, one hand resting on the piano’s polished wood surface. Beca opts to keep her hands hanging by her side.

“Stand up straight. You’re short enough that it’s silly that you slouch anyways. And stop leaning to one side when you sing. You should always take full breaths when you sing, that way your voice can carry more and you’ll have more endurance.”

Beca resists the urge to roll her eyes. As if she needs someone to teach her all this stuff. These techniques have been imbedded in her for years.

*

“It’s important to always have good posture when you sing,” Ms. Heather tells Beca, standing up from the piano bench to circle around her.

“But, I thought I was standing straight,” Beca says, raising her chin in the air in order to make herself seem as tall as possible. Her nine year old body didn’t offer that much height to begin with, but that didn’t stop her from trying.

Ms. Heather chuckles. “Raising your head doesn’t fix you posture, Beca.” She places her hands gently on Beca’s shoulders to pull them back. “You want all your airways to be completely open, that way your voice can carry all the way through your body unrestrained.” With a few more minor adjustments to Beca’s stance, Ms. Heather nods in approval. “There, perfect. That’s how you should always stand.”

Beca holds as still as possible, not wanting to ruin her perfect posture. Ms. Heather sits back down at the piano and smiles up at her. She begins to lead Beca through the remainder of her lesson, joking every now and then when she notices Beca getting frustrated. Beca leaves her house with a smile on her face.

When she gets home, she immediately rushes to the kitchen. Her mom stands at the stove, making dinner.

“Hi, sweetie,” she says, pouring pasta in a boiling pot of water. “How was your lesson?”

“It was great! Ms. Heather gave me a new song to work on,” Beca tells her proudly, holding the sheet music up for her mom to see.

Her mom steps away from the stove to take the piece of music from Beca’s hands. She studies it for a few moments, humming her approval. “That’s pretty exciting! I can’t wait to hear it, Beca.”

Beca grins. “Is Dad home yet? I want to sing it for you and him.”

Her mom walks over to the cupboards and starts pulling plates and cups out to set them on the counter. “Not yet, but he should be getting home any minute now. Why don’t you help me set the table, and you can give us a little mini-concert after dinner?”

Grumbling in disappointment a little, Beca grabs the kitchenware and starts on the talk of setting them out on the table. Her pouting doesn’t last long, though. She sings freely as she works, letting the excitement of a new song and the chance to perform for her parents carry her to dinner.

 

*

“Are you listening to a word I’m saying?”

Beca is jolted back to the present by Aubrey’s sharp words. She notices that her hands have strayed to rest on top of the piano and quickly retracts them, folding her arms over her chest.

“Yeah, definitely,” she says breezily. “Have good posture, drop your jaw, keep your air moving. Got it.”

Aubrey’s eyes narrow. “Hm,” is all she says for a moment, studying Beca. She takes in her purposeful slouch. “Well, fix your standing, then. You look like you trying to shrink in on yourself.”

She begins leading Beca through a warm-up that involves saying the word ‘wow’ over and over again. Beca feels ridiculous, but she has no choice but to go along with it. Her eyes wander as she does so, watching the other Bellas work on various things.

Chloe stands in front of a mirror with Stacie, trying in vain to teach the girl how to keep her hands off herself while singing. Things will go well for a few seconds at a time before Stacie starts groping or grabbing herself in some way, causing Chloe to force her hands to remain at her sides again.

The redhead must feel eyes on her, because after a while she turns her head in Beca’s direction. Beca blushes slightly at being caught and quickly looks away. She glances back a few seconds later to see Chloe still staring at her.

Although she’s still doing the dumb vocal warm-ups, she manages to smile sarcastically at Chloe. She raises her eyebrows and shrugs to indicate how done she is with Aubrey’s crap. Chloe giggles and her tongue pokes through her teeth a little as she tries to make herself stop. She winks once at Beca before turning her attention back to Stacie’s wandering hands.

For some reason, Beca’s smile turns more genuine and the voice stuff Aubrey’s forcing her to do doesn’t seem quite as terrible as before.

* * *

After a disastrous attempt at running through some of the choreography they learned that day, Aubrey lets out an exasperated breath. “Okay, I’m calling it.”

Beca sighs in relief. She was ready for this hell to finally be over. Still, she couldn’t help but give in to the desire to rile up Aubrey, just a little more. Plus, something had been bugging her since they started learning the dance steps. She grabs her water bottle and walks over to the blonde. “Hey, Aubrey, did we just learn the same choreography from that video?”

Aubrey slams her water bottle down on the piano, and Beca can’t help but wince at the action. “Don’t forget to pick up your rehearsal schedule,” she says, ignoring Beca.

Beca clenches her jaw and goes to pick up her schedule. Then, at Aubrey’s request (demand), she joins the rest of the Bellas in a circle. They all put their hands in the middle and attempt to sing and put their hands up on (after?) three, but fail miserably. Aubrey tells them that they’ll work on that first thing next time and finally lets them go.

With a snicker, Beca starts moving to quickly pack up all of her stuff. She’s just heading towards the door when she hears her name being called. She turns around to see Aubrey looking at her expectantly.

“What’s up?” she asks, hoping this won’t take long.

“You know you’ll have to take those ear monstrosities out for the fall mixer, right?” Aubrey asks rhetorically, as if Beca is stupid.

Beca feels anger flare in her chest, but pushes it down. Aubrey definitely isn’t worth it. “You really don’t like me, do you?” she says decidedly.

“I don’t like your attitude,” Aubrey replies frankly.

“You don’t even know me,” Beca retorts defensively. She sees Chloe approach slowly from the corner of her eye.

“I know that you don’t want to be here,” Aubrey accuses her, eyes narrowing. “And I have a feeling that the only thing you care about is yourself.”

Beca shrugs. “Guess you’ll never know,” she says simply and starts to walk away.

From behind her, Aubrey lets out a sharp, “I can smell smoke on you! You better not ruin your voice with those drugs of yours, Beca.”

Beca turns around and continues to walk backwards. “I’m gonna need them to deal with you,” she fires back before pivoting on her heel and swiftly exiting the room.

Now that Aubrey mentions it, she really could go for a smoke.

* * *

She doesn’t expect a knock on her door later that evening, but she figures it’s either her dad or her RA, and Kimmy Jin isn’t here so it isn’t one of her friends, so she chooses to ignore them and hopes whoever it is will go away. Instead, the person knocks again, louder and more rapidly this time. “Beca, you in there?” A familiar voice says.

Beca pauses the show she was watching – The Office, sue her – and gets up to open the door. Just as she suspected, Chloe Beale stands on the other side. She’s got her backpack slung over her shoulder and her face breaks out in a grin when she sees Beca. “You are here!”

“Unfortunately,” Beca deadpans. Chloe only giggles in response. “Um, what are you doing here?” she implores.

“I was wondering if we could hang out,” Chloe replies easily. Beca raises an eyebrow.

“And you had to come all the way to my dorm to ask me that? Why didn’t you just text me?”

Chloe shrugs. “I have a feeling that if I’d texted you, you wouldn’t have answered.”

Damn. She was right.

Beca rubs the back of her neck awkwardly. “That’s not true…” she trails off weakly.

Chloe looks at her knowingly. “Mmhm. Sure it’s not. So, can I come in?”

She’s already pushing past Beca as she says it, dropping her bag at the foot of the bed and kicking off her shoes.

“Please do,” Beca says sarcastically, shutting the door. She watches as Chloe starts wandering around the room, looking at the various pictures lining her shelves. “You don’t know boundaries very well, do you?” she asks after a moment, though there’s no malice in her tone like she thought there would be.

Chloe looks away from the pictures and towards Beca, grinning. “Nope, not really,” she says brightly. Then, a rare shadow of doubt crosses her face. “Is this too much? I can go if I’m making you uncomfortable.”

Beca chuckles. “Pretty sure you already did that when you burst in my shower, dude,” she says lightly. She walks over to sit in her desk chair. “I don’t think you could do much worse at this point.”

Chloe’s smile returns. “Good point,” she agrees before turning back towards the photos.

The pictures are mostly of her friends from Seattle, most of them taken at the skate park they always used to hang out at. A fair number are action shots of either someone else doing a trick or Beca herself doing one. Chloe picks one up of Beca.

“Is this you?” she asks.

Beca nods her head. “Yeah, it is.”

Chloe studies the picture for another moment, looking impressed. “How long have you been skateboarding for?”

Beca thinks back. “Since I was… fifteen, I think? Yeah, I started at fifteen and got my first board at sixteen. So like three years.”

The picture gets returned to its place and Chloe points to another one. “And who are they? Friends of yours?”

“Yeah, or, acquaintances, at least.”

“Do you miss them?”

Beca shrugs at the question. “I guess? But not really.”

Chloe looks at her. “Not really? Why not?”

 Beca swivels in her chair a bit. “We weren’t super close. We did more skating than talking most of the time.”

“Where are you from?”

“What is this, twenty question?” Beca grumbles.

Chloe has the decency to look apologetic. “Sorry, I just wanted to get to know you.”

“Yeah, well, I think you’ve got that covered by now,” Beca says icily. She notices Chloe looking upset, so she softens up. “So did you have anything in mind that you wanted to do when you came here, or was your idea to actually play 20 questions?” she tries in a joking manner.

Chloe flushes slightly. “No, nothing specific,” she admits. “I don’t know. I guess I just… I guess I just wanted to spend time with you.”

Beca clicks her tongue to fill the silence and looks around the room. “Well, I was just watching The Office when you knocked,” she says awkwardly. “We could watch that, if you want?”

Chloe’s face lights up. “Let’s do it.”

The two of them get settled on the bed with Beca’s laptop in between them and let the show play, but eventually it just ends up as background noise to their conversation. But Beca doesn’t mind; she’s seen all the episodes, and she’s slowly learning that she’d much rather listen to Chloe Beale talk than watch Michael Scott offend his employees anyways.

* * *

The next day, Beca walks into work to find a sight she’s never seen before. Some guy is standing by one of the shelves, dusting. Music blares from some overhead speakers – which Beca didn’t even know they had – and the guy is singing along at the top of his lungs.

Beca narrows her eyes and marches over to the stranger. “Hey,” she barks, poking him harshly in the back of the shoulder. The guy turns around with a grin on his face.

“Hey,” he says, in a much friendlier manner than Beca had. “I’m Jesse.”

Beca points up at the ceiling. “Do you mind?” she asks, indicating to the music.

“Right! Sorry, one sec,” Jesse says quickly. He walks over to the office and a few moments later, the volume is turned down significantly. Beca scowls. She wanted it all the way off, but at least now she doesn’t have to yell over the noise. Jesse emerges from the office. “Sorry about that, I wasn’t expecting anyone here for a while.”

“Who are you, anyways?” Beca questions him with a raised eyebrow.

“I’m Jesse.”

Beca rolls her eyes. “Yeah, you mentioned that,” she says irritably. “But what are you doing here?”

“I… work here?” Jesse says, sounding confused.

Beca’s eyebrows furrow. “Then why haven’t I seen you before?”

Jesse laughs. “Probably because Luke doesn’t need both of us here at the same time.”

Beca’s shoulders slump. She guessed that made sense. “Oh, right.”

Jesse studies her for a moment. “I know you,” he decides.

“No you don’t,” Beca says.

“Yeah, I do,” Jesse says confidently. “I just don’t know from where…” He taps his chin, thinking, before snapping his fingers. “You’re that girl who did the cup thing at auditions!”

Beca groans inwardly. You’ve got to be kidding me.

“That would be me,” she sighs, walking away from him to plop down on the couch. Jesse follows excitedly behind her.

“Man, that was so cool,” he raves. “Could you show me how to do it?”

“No,” Beca snaps at him immediately, glaring in his direction.

Jesse holds up his hands in surrender with a smile on his face. “Okay, okay. Not a big sharer, I see,” he says good-naturedly. Beca fights to keep her cold stare intact. It’s harder to glare at someone who seems genuinely so unbothered by her standoffish attitude.

“Quick learner,” she quips.

Jesse just grins some more. “You got recruited by the Bellas, right?”

Beca nods her head. “Unfortunately.”

“I joined the Trebles.”

“Congratulations,” she drawls dryly, picking up a magazine to read from the coffee table.

Jesse chuckles. “So what’s you deal?” he asks, standing from the couch to continue his dusting. “You’re one of those girls who’s all dark and mysterious, then she takes off her glasses and that amazingly scary ear spike and you realize that, you know, she was beautiful the whole time?”

“I don’t wear glasses,” Beca deadpans, flipping a page in her magazine.

“Then you’re halfway there,” Jesse fires back.

Beca looks up at him for moment before turning her attention away again. “You know when Luke’s gonna be back?”

“No,” is Jesse’s reply from the other side of the room. “He said he was ‘going out,’ so who knows what that means.”

Beca shrugs and stands up from the couch, magazine still in hand. She walks over to the office to see a sound system. She finds the power button and presses it, ceasing the music altogether. Jesse looks at her in confusion and she stares back with an indifferent gaze. She sits down in the chair behind the desk and breaks eye contact, flipping another page in her magazine and saying nothing.

* * *

The empty swimming pool on Barden’s campus would definitely make a great zombie apocalypse movie set, but apparently it was also the perfect place to host competitive a cappella events. All four groups on campus stood (or sat, in the High Notes case) in the middle of the pool, waiting for… whatever it they were there for to start.

When Aubrey had messaged the Bellas group chat telling them to be ready for the “riff off” tonight, Beca had immediately texted Chloe and asked what the hell a riff off was. Chloe had only sent back a cryptic you’ll see with a winky face in response.

It was a miracle Beca came, really.

Observers stood and sat along the pool’s edge at the top, drinking beer and apparently hyping themselves up for the evening’s activity. Beca didn’t know who was lamer- the people willingly participating in a cappella, or the a cappella groupies.

Beca would go with the latter, since she was technically once of the people willingly participating.

Aubrey is busy giving everyone a brief pep talk of sorts when a siren call sounds from the Harmonics. The Bellas all turn towards the center of the pool where one of the guys from auditions, Justin, stands.

“WELCOME TO THE RIFF OFF.”

A cheer rises from groups and spectators alike, and even Beca begins to feel the palpable excitement in the air.

“Who’s ready to get vocal?” Justin asks, causing more cheering to erupt. He continues to pump up the crowd and from her place at the edge of the Bellas, Beca spots Jesse standing with the Trebles. He catches her looking at him and puts on a tough expression.

You’re going down, he mouths to her, pointing to the ground.

Beca shrugs and holds out her hands. I don’t care, she mouths back.

Fair enough, he replies, grinning.

Justin was apparently finally ready to get down to business. “Let’s see our first category,” he says, holding a projector thing up to the wall, showing a wheel with different categories to choose from. The wheel starts spinning and Beca looks to see Chloe and Aubrey watching with avid attention. Aubrey holds her hands up to her mouth and wiggles her fingers in anticipation.

The wheel eventually stops spinning and lands on a category. “Ladies of the ‘80s!” Justin proclaims, and movement immediately follows. Aubrey rushes forward at the same time as the Trebles do, and before she can start singing Bumper stomps his foot.

“Oh Mickey, you’re so fine,” they start singing along with the beat they’ve created, “You’re so fine you blow my mind. Hey Mickey! Oh Mickey, you’re so-”

“Fine,” they’re cut off by a girl from the Harmonics. The Harmonics start doing a rendition of Like a Virgin and Beca watches with slight fascination. She still doesn’t exactly understand how this whole thing works, since no one ever bothered to explain it to her, but she guesses it’s sort of interesting watching the different groups interact with each other like this.

The Harmonics continue to sing while Aubrey and Chloe turn towards the Bellas to form a huddle. Beca can’t hear exactly what they’re saying, but she does hear the firm “watch” that Aubrey says before she walks out to the middle of the pool again. Beca notices Chloe start to follow behind before Aubrey shoos her away. Beca’s eyes narrow suspiciously.

Aubrey butts in to what the Harmonics are singing with, “Like the one in me, that’s okay,” and understanding of how it works starts to dawn on Beca. Aubrey continues to sing and eventually motions for the rest of the Bellas to join her. Chloe leads the rest of them towards Aubrey, and they begin to harmonize. Beca doesn’t sing along with them quite yet, but she does follow hesitantly behind.

It’s actually going surprising well before Beca sees one of the High Notes stumble their way over. She holds up a hand and tries to match the word “away” with “ay.” A few people start laughing at her, including members of her own group and Justin walks over to her with his arms raised.

“The negative side effects of medical marijuana, folks,” he proclaims. “You are,” he claps his hands together, as well as everyone else in the pool, causing Beca to jump slightly in surprise, “Cut off!”

Cheering rises at the elimination and Justin turns towards the wall to pick the next category. The Bellas retreat back to their original spot and Beca sidles up alongside Chloe to make sure she’s understanding things correctly. “So, we match a new song with a common word?”

Chloe smiles at her. “Exactly.”

“And you just pick any song that works and… go with it?”

Chloe nods her head. “Yep,” she affirms.

“Nice,” Beca says, mostly to herself, as she migrates towards the back of the group again.

Suddenly, the next category is announced. “Songs about sex.”

Beca sees the Trebles start to move towards the middle, but before they get far a voice cuts them off.

“Na na na, come on.”

To her surprise, it’s Cynthia-Rose that is singing. She steps out from the middle of the Bellas and makes her way to stand right in front of the Trebles, getting in their faces. The rest of the Bellas start doing background vocals while Stacie prowls forward so that she’s next to Cynthia-Rose. The two start grinding against each other while they sing.

This time, Beca can’t help but join in. She steps up behind Chloe and adds in some harmonies, trying not to look too into the whole ordeal. She does have a reputation to uphold, after all.

Before they can repeat the chorus all the way through, the beatboxer from the Trebles cuts in. “Sex, baby. Let’s talk you and me,” he croons, getting the rest of the guys to back him up. Cynthia-Rose retreats back to the rest of the Bellas, but Stacie holds her ground.

Aubrey marches up to start pulling Stacie away from the Trebles by the arm, but Stacie stops her before they get very far. Once again, she strolls right up to the boys and cuts them off. “Baby, all through the night I’ll make love to you,” she sings, and Amy steps forward to harmonize with her. “Like you want me to, and-”

“And I guess that’s just the woman in you,” Beca’s surprised when Jesse quickly steps in and sings over Stacie, causing her to finally step away. Her face must show her surprise, because he gives her a subtle wink. “That brings out the man in me.”

Jesse looks so smug as the rest of the Trebles join him that Beca can’t help but start to think of some song to interrupt him with. She racks her brain for any options, and comes up with a horribly brilliant idea. She really doesn’t give it any second thought before running forward.

“It’s going down, fade to blackstreet, the homies got RB, collab’ creations, bump like acne.”

The look of shock on Jesse’s face is enough to make Beca forget about what she’s doing, so she’s keeps going and lets the lyrics spill from her lips. She turns around to face the Bellas towards the end of the rap to look at all of them. Chloe’s jaw is basically on the floor, Aubrey has a look of confusion on her face, and the rest of the girls look either shocked or impressed.

An awkward moment of silence follows the verse, and Beca’s heart falls as the Bellas fail to join in with her. Then, she hears Jesse from behind her say, “Keep going,” and that’s all she needs to push through.

Beca smiles at the Bellas and spreads her arms out. “Shorty get down, good Lord,” she croons, and the resulting whistles and whoops give her strength. “Baby got ‘em open all over town.”

At last, Fat Amy emerges from the Bellas. She joins in with Beca on the next line, and Beca sees Chloe turn to start organizing the rest of the girls. “Strickly biz she don’t play around, cover much grounds, got game by the pound,” Fat Amy slaps her belly, and with that Chloe cues them in and the Bellas are off.

As Beca’s voice soars over the brilliant backup the Bellas are providing her, she can’t help but think about how great this is. How great it feels to sing and to feel the music flow through her. It’s a sensation she hasn’t allowed herself to feel in years and in this moment, Beca forgets why she ever stopped in the first place.

Beca takes a turn around the group and ends up next to Chloe. The two of them make eye contact, and Beca’s smile somehow grows even larger. A rush goes through Beca when she realizes Chloe’s not the only one watching her; the other girls are all waiting for her cue to cut them off. So, she raises her hands to let them know to hold out one last note and lets it end with a resounding, “We out.”

Cheers explode from all around the pool, and Beca pays them only brief attention before facing the Trebles. While Chloe hugs her from behind and Amy jostles her arm, Beca lets her expression turn smug. “I mean, you’re welcome,” she tells the Trebles cockily.

She’s so caught up in celebrating with the Bellas that she doesn’t notice Justin making his over to them. “Tough blow, ladies,” he says, killing the mood. “The word you needed to match was ‘it’… and you sang ‘it’s.’” Beca laughs in disbelief. “You are cut off!”

The Trebles and Justin are the only ones that say it this time around, but it doesn’t hurt any less. Anger flares though Beca. “Are you serious?” she demands.

Justin declares the Trebles as the winners and hands them the microphone. The Trebles go wild and Beca glares at them. They got to win by a technicality?

Fuck this.

Aubrey starts gathering the Bellas for some sort of meeting, but Beca ignores her summons and storms off in the direction of the ladder out of the pool. When she gets her foot in the first notch to start climbing out, she feels a hand on her arm, stopping her. She whips around, expecting to see an angry Aubrey or a gloating Jesse, but it’s neither. It’s Chloe.

“Don’t you have a loss to discuss?” she says bitterly, but immediately regrets the tone she used upon seeing the lack of judgement in Chloe’s eyes.

“I don’t want to focus on the loss,” Chloe says kindly. “I just… I just wanted to tell you how amazing you were tonight. I’ve never seen anything like that before,” she squeezes Beca’s arm. “Beca, that was incredible.

Beca’s eyes soften at the sincerity in Chloe’s voice. “Yeah well,” she says softly, without the malice of before. “I’m glad someone thinks so.”

She meets Chloe’s eyes for a second and gives her a small, sad smile before climbing up out of the pool. She shoves her hands in her jacket pockets and starts walking home, all the while ignoring the small bit of light that she knows was ignited tonight; a light that was ignited by the music.

Chapter Text

“Are you sure I’m not going to fall over?”

“I’m gonna hold onto you. You’re not going to fall.”

“What if you let go?”

“Chloe, I’m not going to let go.”

Chloe looks at Beca with unbelieving eyes. “I remember learning how to ride a bike, Beca. I know about the whole ‘make them believe you’re going to hold on and then let go after a while’ thing.”

Beca bites her lip to stop the grin threatening to break free. “I was… definitely not going to do that.”

“Sure you weren’t.”

Beca’s friendship with Chloe has progressively built over the past month or so. Usually Beca liked to be a loner and didn’t mind not having anyone to hang out with, but the ginger was just about the most persistent person Beca had ever met, besides maybe her father.

There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by since Beca joined the Bellas that Chloe hasn’t talked to her in some way. She always wakes up to a good morning text, and often falls asleep texting the affectionate redhead. Chloe liked to show up unannounced at Beca’s door with coffee, movies, or snacks, and Beca would always let her in with fake annoyance.

Beca didn’t know exactly what it was about the senior that made her accept her into her life so easily. Maybe it was the way Chloe never pried. She was always eager to share, and sometimes over share, details about her life, but she never forced Beca to talk about hers. She was kind and understanding, and she didn’t seem to mind Beca’s constant grumpiness and turbulent personality. She just seemed to get Beca in a way that no one else ever had.

It was fair to say that Beca was attracted to her a cappella-loving friend. When she’d first realized the fact, she had immediately tried to deny it and avoided Chloe for almost a solid two days.

Then Chloe had shown up at Beca’s dorm with ice cream, asking if she was okay, and Beca knew she was screwed.

So Beca liked Chloe, and she was pretty sure that Chloe was crushing on her as well, if the way she was always flirting with her and touching her was any indication. Which was honestly awesome, if you asked Beca.

A hot, funny redhead possibly liked her? Yeah, Beca would take that.

But Beca knew nothing could happen between them. If something casual were to develop, that would be great, but Beca had a feeling that Chloe Beale didn’t do casual.

Chloe Beale was the most passionate person Beca had ever met. She had an opinion on just about everything and cared deeply about most things in life. Beca guessed that she liked commitment, and was all-in when it came to relationships.

And Beca is leaving at the end of the year, which is decidedly not all-in in any way.

So Beca was fine to just be friends and ignore her feelings until the end of the year. Then she would go back to Seattle and probably forget that Chloe Beale ever existed in the first place.

At least that’s what she told herself.

But still, Beca couldn’t help but allow her eyes to drift to Chloe’s face every once in a while; let her touches linger longer than they should. A little harmless flirting never hurt anyone, right?

Sure, right.

Beca holds one hand up to her heart and raises the other square in the air. “I swear on my official BU rape whistle that I will not let go of you until you give me explicit permission to do so.”

Chloe giggles before forcing a serious expression on her face. “I will trust in the whistle,” she says solemnly. “Now, help me get on this death trap.”

Beca rolls her eyes affectionately and holds out a steadying hand for Chloe to take. “Hop on up, then, Tony Hawk.”

One of Chloe’s hands comes up to grip Beca’s as she places one foot on the purple and black deck. Then, she sucks in a breath and brings the other foot up. Chloe’s hands move to grip Beca’s shoulders from where she’s standing in front of the board. Beca brings her own hands up to hold Chloe’s arms.

“See?” she says once Chloe’s steady. “Not so scary.”

“Easy for you to say,” Chloe says, face bunched in concentration and focus. Beca can’t help but find the expression cute.

In fact, all of Chloe looks cute today, she thinks. She’s wearing some old, worn-out converse, ripped jeans, a BU snapback, and one of Beca’s flannels over a t-shirt because she had to look the part, Beca. Beca hadn’t fought her on the matter one bit. She didn’t dare say anything that would make Chloe want to change out of this look.

Oh yeah, she was royally screwed.

Beca realizes too late that she was openly checking Chloe out. When she looks back at Chloe’s face, the senior is wearing a smug smirk.

“What are you lookin’ at, Bec?” Chloe teases.

Beca feels her face flush. “Nothing,” she says quickly, causing Chloe to laugh. Beca moves so that she’s standing behind Chloe instead. “Let’s just do this thing. Maybe if I’m lucky you’ll crash into something.”

Before Chloe can come up with a comeback, Beca begins to push her. Chloe yelps at the sudden movement and throws her arms out for balance. This time it’s Beca’s turn to laugh. She settles her hands on Chloe’s waist and starts her on a slow roll down the sidewalk.

They’re at the skate park near Barden, though they’re sticking to the safety of the flat sidewalk. On top of the clothes, Chloe had also insisted she go to an actual skateboard zone to learn. Beca, of course, hadn’t minded one bit and just hopped into Chloe’s car.

Chloe rolls for a while, though her form still makes it look like she’s free-falling in midair. “Try putting your arms down to your side,” she suggests. “That way you won’t look like you’re trying to take flight.”

“I’m gonna fall if I do that.”

Beca rolls her eyes. “For the last time, you won’t fall down.”

Despite her hesitance, Chloe slowly lowers her arms down to her sides so that she looks more casual, though they still fly out every once in a while when she loses her sense of balance. Beca nods her head in approval.

“I’m gonna let of you now.”

“No, you can’t,” Chloe tells her. “You said you wouldn’t.”

“Yeah, well,” Beca replies, unconcerned. “We all say things in life we don’t mean, Beale.”

With that, Beca lets go of her hold on Chloe’s waist. Chloe’s hands immediately fly out to balance herself again. “Beca, you piece of shit!” she yells as she rolls away on her own.

Beca just laughs. “Loosen up,” she calls back to her, “and if you feel like you’re going to fall just hop off.”

Chloe does her best to follow Beca’s advice and eventually relaxes. After a while she successfully attempts a push with her foot. Beca whoops in response. Chloe makes a wide turn at the end of the path and skates her way back over to Beca. When she comes to a clumsy stop in front of Beca, she’s grinning from ear to ear.

“How was that?” she asks, seeming supremely proud of herself.

Beca shrugs her shoulders, but a grin is plastered on her own face. “You’re a natural, Chlo.”

Chloe flips her hair with an air of fake cockiness. “I know.” They both laugh and start walking back in the direction of the park, knocking their shoulders together playfully. “So,” Chloe says after a moment of quiet, “am I going to get to see some of your dope moves?”

Beca wrinkles her nose. “If you promise to never say ‘dope’ again, then sure.”

Chloe cheers and pushes the board into Beca’s hands. Beca holds it loosely by her side as she walks over to the edge of the bowl. Luckily there’s only one or two other skaters at the park today, so it isn’t overly crowded. She sets up her board so that it’s hanging over the side and places her feet in position. She looks behind her to see Chloe settled on a bench to watch and shoots her a wink before pushing forward and dropping into the bowl.

The familiar rush of adrenaline she always gets from skating fills her body, and soon all Beca can think about is the feel of the board beneath her feet, the wind rushing in her ears, and the feeling of weightlessness as she twists in the air. She only glances over at Chloe once when she hears her cheering loudly for her after she does a trick, and she shoots her a grin with her tongue stuck between her teeth in response.

After a couple minutes – or fifteen, she honestly doesn’t know – Beca flips up out of the top of the bowl. She’s breathless, more so from the thrill than the actual physical exertion. Smiling, she makes her way leisurely back to Chloe.

Chloe stands as Beca approaches, a dazed look upon her face. “I’m gonna say it,” Chloe says once she’s close enough. “Beca Mitchell, you are hot stuff.”

Beca blushes and brings a hand up to rub the back of her neck, looking to the side in embarrassment. “Yeah, well,” she mumbles, scuffing a toe against the pavement. “Everyone needs a hobby, right?”

Chloe hums in agreement and Beca looks back at her to see her looking her up and down with her bottom lip trapped between her teeth. Beca’s blush darkens. A second later, and Chloe seems to snap out of it. “So are there any other talents of yours that I should know about?”

She sounds like she’s joking, and Beca should just accept it as a joke, but for some reason Beca decides to take it seriously.

“Actually, there is one other thing you don’t know about me.”

* * *

Small fists slam down on the piano keys in frustration. A voice lets out a cry a moment later. “I hate this!”

Hesitant footsteps approach the front room. “Everything alright, Bug?”

Beca wipes an angry tear from her eye and sniffs. “Don’t call me that,” she mumbles. “I’m ten now, so I’m too old for that.”

Her father holds up his hands in surrender before making his way to stand next to where Beca sits on the piano bench. “Scooch over,” he says, nudging at her shoulder.

Beca slides over without a word, still glaring at the keys in front of her. “I hate the piano,” she grumbles bitterly.

“Is that so?” her dad asks, eyebrows rising. “And why is that?”

Beca crosses her arms. “It’s stupid. And hard. And the music is boring.”

Her dad nods his head solemnly. “Well, that is true,” he agrees.

“I never want to play again.”

“Okay, then don’t.”

Beca looks up at him in surprise. “What?”

He shrugs. “If you hate it so much, then just quit.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

A look of apprehension crosses Beca’s face. “Okay,” she says slowly. “Then I’m going to quit.”

Her dad smiles. “Good for you, Beca.”

With that, he turns towards the piano and places his hands on the keys. Beca listens glumly as he starts playing a sweet melody. Thinking he’s just showing off, she scowls and turns her head away to glare at the wall.

Then the melody starts to shift into a more familiar one. Beca turns her head slightly to look at her dad, only to see him already smiling at her. She turns her head away pointedly again. Undeterred, he continues playing until he suddenly stops, holding out the chord leading into the next phrase. Beca turns towards him again and sees him looking at her expectantly.

Stubbornly holding back a grin, Beca looks down at the keyboard. She slowly unfolds her arms and lays her right hand on the keys before playing the pickup notes leading into the next part of the melody. Her dad continues playing, accompanying the melody she plucks out. Eventually her left hand joins her right and it becomes a full duet.

They mess around for a while, trading the lead part back and forth and adding embellishments where they see fit until the song comes to a natural end. Her dad puts his foot down on the sustain pedal, letting their final chord hang in the air to fade out. He puts his hands in his lap and looks over at Beca with a casual expression on his face.

“You sure you want to quit?” he asks simply.

Beca shakes her head and smiles. “I guess not,” she admits. “Not yet, at least.”

* * *

 The rehearsal room’s lights are turned off, the space lit by the light filtering in through the windows near the top of the bleachers. The setting sun bathes the room in an orange glow, illuminating dust particles in the air where the rays hit them. The atmosphere is quiet and still.

Beca sits on the bench in front of the old piano, wringing her hands nervously in her lap. Chloe sits next to her, surprisingly quiet for once, as if sensing that this is a big deal. She had asked no questions when Beca had led them here from the skate park, which Beca was grateful for.

If she had been asked any questions, Beca might have chickened out.

She still might.

At last, Beca finds the conviction to move. She rolls her shoulders back and takes a deep breath, shifting on the piano bench to get comfortable. She shakes her hands out slightly before hovering them over the keyboard. The moment her fingers make contact with the smooth ivory, she lets go of her breath and begins to play.

The melody that comes to life is sweet and soft and delicate, and Beca doesn’t even have to think of the notes to play it. It’s a song that she played often as a kid; one that her father eventually had to tell her to stop playing because he kept getting it stuck in his head when he tried to do work. She closes her eyes and lets the familiar movements take over.

Beca supposes that playing piano is a lot like riding a skateboard, in a way. Both fill you with emotions until you can hardly breathe, causing all thoughts to vanish from your mind except for what you’re focusing on right then. Both have highs and lows, whether they come from jumps and flips or rising dynamics and falling lines.

Both have a place in Beca's heart, and Beca thinks she’s finally beginning to understand that.

When the final chord plays, Beca sustains it for a while and allows the notes to ring through the air before slowly fading away, the room filling with silence once again. Except, Beca thinks she feels lighter now than before, somehow.

She opens her eyes and looks at Chloe to see a small smile on her face and amazement shining in her eyes.

And Beca supposes that Chloe Beale is not unlike music either; she fills you up and takes your breath away, leaving parts of her in your heart.

Beca feels her heart beat heavily in her chest.

After a long moment spent looking at each other, Chloe breaks the silence. “Where did you learn to play like that?”

“I might have taken lessons for a year or so. Or seven,” Beca admits sheepishly. “As well as voice lessons for six,” she adds as an afterthought.

Chloe shoves her, though not hard enough to push her off the small piano bench. “Beca Mitchell, why didn’t you tell me you were a music genius?”

Beca shrugs. “It never came up,” she reasons lightly, then becomes a little more serious. “Plus, I, uh… I don’t really do that stuff anymore.”

Chloe’s eyebrows furrow. “Why not?”

Beca looks away from Chloe’s concerned gaze. “It’s complicated,” she says quietly.

She feels a hand rest on her arm. Beca looks back at Chloe. “Well, regardless of if you enjoy it or not, I thought it was beautiful,” she punctuates her thought by gently squeezing her arm. “You are so talented, Beca.”

Beca suddenly has to fight off a wave of emotions at the words, and she feels herself leaning in towards Chloe without even realizing it. Chloe’s eyes are focused on her lips as she also leans in just the slightest amount. Beca glances down at Chloe’s lips for a brief moment, and she considers closing the distance.

Then, Beca pulls away and the moment disappears. She clears her throat and looks down at her hands in her lap. From the corner of her eye she sees Chloe try to act casual as well. Beca decides a change of pace wouldn’t hurt right about now.

“Want to go get some food?” she asks only slightly awkwardly. She tries for a more sarcastic tone. “I worked up an appetite showing off for you today.”

Chloe giggles and the tension releases. “Only if you let me pay for you, superstar.”

They get up from the small bench and walk out of the rehearsal room. Chloe makes sure to lock the door behind them and they set off on their way. Beca feels Chloe reach down to loosely entwine their fingers, and she can’t help but think that she’s kind of okay with where she’s ended up for the time being.

* * *

Beca’s first a cappella competition is about as dull as she expected it to be. Most of the groups are mediocre at best; between poor tuning, uninspired arrangements, and uncertain vocals, Beca is all around unimpressed.

Not that Beca knows or cares about anything a cappella related, of course.

The group performing currently shows mild promise, Beca thinks. They wear all black, and their light melody floats easily above the soloist. It’s nothing too flashy, which Beca respects.

Then they pull out sock puppets and Beca’s respect is immediately lost. Still, she can’t but admire their creativity, even if it is pretty lame.

Aubrey doesn’t seem too impressed by them, either. While the “Sockappellas” go through their set, she quickly tries to shut down any of the complimentary comments the rest of the Bellas have about them. “There’s no craft there,” she hisses. “Watching them will make you worse.”

Annoyance flares up in Beca. “At least they’re different,” she counters quietly. She doesn’t turn around to see Aubrey’s reaction, but she can feel the captain’s glare burning on the back of her head. Beca fights off a smirk.

The Sockappellas conclude their set and the Bellas clap politely for them before huddling up. “Hands in,” Aubrey tells them. The Bellas do as they’re told, and Beca sandwiches herself in between Cynthia-Rose and Lilly. “Remember, ‘ah’ on three,” Aubrey says sternly, and they all attempt to throw their hands up on three (after three?) once again with little success.

Chloe tries to calm Aubrey down from her frustration while the announcer on stage starts to announce them. “Let’s give it up for… the Barden Bellas!”

The crowd cheers and the Bellas start walking down the aisle towards the stage. They climb the steps and get into position, and Beca makes sure to tug her skirt down from where it’s ridden up.

She might end up quitting the Bellas because of the uniform alone.

Nevertheless, Beca poses with her hands on her hips and stares out into the audience, asking herself yet again how she managed to end up here.

Aubrey blows into the pitch pipe and tucks it into her blazer pocket before counting them in and their performance starts. Although Beca had been sceptic of the group when rehearsals first started because of how terrible they were, they had somehow managed to pull themselves together to be at least halfway decent.

The first half of their set goes off without a hitch, with no puking or any other bodily fluids flying out into the audience in any capacity. Chloe’s solo goes alright as well, though Beca does notice a few of the audience members start to dose off and lose interest in the middle of it. And Beca can’t really blame them; the set is pretty dull.

Still, Beca feels a sudden stab of annoyance that no one’s paying all that much attention to Chloe. She sounds great, and everyone in the audience should take a moment to appreciate her voice.

So Beca’s pretty done with the performance by the time Fat Amy’s solo comes around. What she is not expecting is the energy that the Australian manages to pump into the number. Amy goes completely rogue with the her performance, and Beca can see Aubrey glaring daggers at her as a result.

The thought of Aubrey being pissed off coupled with the ridiculousness that is Fat Amy is enough to make Beca smile all throughout the Aussie’s solo. She’s holding back her laughter by the end of their set, and she lets herself grin widely at the audience as they hold their finishing pose.

Amy soaks in the audience’s praise for a few moments before the Bellas bow and make their way offstage. Beca passes Jesse on their way down the aisle and he gives her a thumbs up before the announcer calls the Trebles up to the stage. The Trebles rush onto the stage in flurry of energy that makes Beca roll her eyes.

The Bellas group up together at the back of the auditorium to watch the Trebles’ actually good performance. Chloe sidles up next to Beca halfway through and Beca leans comfortably into her side, quickly losing interest in the Trebles. She glances up at Chloe to see her attention still focused avidly onstage.

The Trebles finish their set and the crowd erupts in cheers, clearly in love with the group of boys. Beca hears Aubrey scoff from behind her and just shakes her head, laughing at how ridiculously serious some people are about this whole a cappella thing. She starts playfully bumping into Chloe’s side to keep herself entertained as they wait for results.

Much to her surprise, they end up getting second, which is good enough for them to advance to the semi-finals. A part of Beca is proud that they were able to pull through so that they can advance, but a larger, louder part of her is kind of disappointed that she’ll have to keep rehearsing and going to competitions.

Unsurprisingly, the Trebles get first. Which Beca thinks is fair, because they were pretty much the only group with a worthwhile performance.

Beca expects Aubrey to immediately start lecturing them about what they should have done better as soon as the Trebles run out of the auditorium in a frenzy, trophy held high above their heads, but surprisingly she doesn’t say a word. She just ushers them out the door with a smile on her face behind the Trebles.

The scene that greets them out in the lobby is an absurd one. The Trebles seem to be squaring up against a group of four middle-aged dudes, though it isn't clear which side had started it. She watches them mouth off to each other for moment in amusement before a couple of the older men single out some of the Trebles – including Jesse.

A crease forms between Beca’s brows as she watches a short, black-haired guy start trying to convince Jesse to hit him. Beside her, Amy makes a punching motion, obviously thrilled by the violent turn, and Chloe places a hand on her shoulder to admonish her.

Jesse is obviously uncomfortable at the prospect of fighting a random stranger, and Beca feels some of her protective instincts rear up. Jesse may be kind of annoying, and nerdy, and way too into singing for her liking, but he is sort of her friend, damn it. If anyone was going to beat him up it would be her after he gets on her nerves too much.

“I’m just gonna,” Beca says absently to no one in particular, carefully climbing her way down the steps towards Jesse. “I’m just gonna check on him.”

Beca makes her way as quickly as she can in her heels over to Jesse and taps the man on his shoulder with a sharp “hey” to get him to turn around. He turns around, only to meet the end of her fist.

Now, Beca’s no pro fighter. Sure, she’s been in her fair share of tussles here and there because of dumb people from her high school, but she definitely wouldn’t say that she enjoys fighting.

Still, she’s got a mean left hook, which is coming in handy right about now.

The man falls to the ground and Beca shakes out her left hand, her knuckles stinging unpleasantly from the impact. The guy she just punched has a red mark on his cheek from where she hit him, but he looks thrilled for some reason. “Oh, that’s fantastic,” he says gleefully.

Thoroughly confused at this point, Beca looks over to see Amy, holding the Trebles’ trophy in her hands, advancing towards the psychotic man. “Feel the fat power!” she roars. Beca quickly goes to work trying to subdue the large Australian and grabs onto one side of the trophy, but Amy still manages to kick the guy in the balls, to which he responds equally as enthusiastically. Amy tries to pull the trophy out of Beca’s hands. “Give me the sharp weapon! I want to put it up his butt!”

The man gets on all fours and sticks his ass in the air. “Ooh, cherry on top,” he says excitedly.

Beca doubles down on her efforts to remove the trophy from Amy’s hands, and Amy automatically pulls it in the opposite direction. One moment they’re playing tug-of-war with it, and the next it’s flying through the nearby window. The larger part of the trophy crashes through the glass, shattering it instantly.

Shock courses through Beca’s system at the destruction, and she holds her hands, still clutching onto part of the trophy, up to shield her face from the flying glass. She slowly lowers her arms to see a police officer walking briskly towards the building and the people around her start to scatter. Amy runs down the hallway with a cry of “I’m vertical running!” while Beca stands frozen in her place.

The next thing she knows, handcuffs are being slapped around her wrists and she’s being led outside to a cop car. Before they reach the car, Beca hears her name being called from near the building. She looks over her shoulder to see Chloe running after her.

“Beca, what should I do?” Chloe asks in a panic once she’s close enough, looking as if she’s on the verge of tears.

Beca tries to twist around to see her better, but the cop holding onto her arm makes it difficult. “Everything’s gonna be alright, Chlo,” she tries to reassure her. “I’ll call someone to come sort things out. I’ll be fine.” Chloe looks like she doesn’t believe her, so Beca gives her reassuring smile. “I promise.”

Although she still looks hesitant, Chloe slowly nods her head. “Okay,” she says shakily. “Just… if I don’t hear from you within 24 hours, I will come and get you.”

The cop opens the door and Beca slides in, ducking her head so she doesn’t smack it on the frame. “Thank you,” she tells Chloe. “I’ll be alright. Just tell the girls to leave without me.”

The last thing Beca sees before the car pulls away is Chloe standing on the sidewalk, hands on her hips and looking like her entire world has dropped out from underneath her.

* * *

A cop comes to let her out before she’s even had her one phone call.

In all honesty, Beca had no plan when she’d told Chloe that everything would be fine. She didn’t really have anyone she could call; all of her friends were in the Bellas, her dad would literally kill her if he found out about this, and Kimmy Jin would probably hang up as soon as she heard Beca’s voice.

Beca’s been arrested before. Twice, in fact. The first time had been because she had been caught graffitiing with some of her buddies and the second was because she had been drinking at a party that got too out of control. Both times she had called her mom to come get her, which her mother did without a word, though Beca had felt the palpable disappointment coming from her.

Her mom wasn’t here now, so Beca had to come up with another plan. She’s just decided on calling Luke – sure, he’s her boss, but she also has a feeling he’s the type of guy to have both been arrested and also bail out his friends who have gotten arrested – when the door to her cell opens. She looks up to see a police officer standing in the now open cell door.

“You’re free to go,” he tells her gruffly.

Beca stands slowly. “How?” she asks, confused as she follows the cop out of the holding area. “I didn’t even call anyone.”

The officer shrugs. “Someone just came to pick you up. That’s all I know.”

He opens the door leading out into the police station lobby and Beca feels her blood turn to ice at who’s standing there.

“Dad?”

Her father looks at her sternly. “Let’s go, Beca."

He leads her out of the building and Beca can feel the anger coming off of him. “How did you know I was here?” she asks.

“Officer Presley is a friend of mine,” he answers shortly. His words are clipped and he doesn’t turn to look at her. “He recognized you and gave me a call to let me know what happened.” They reach his car and he finally turns to look to look at her, but Beca kind of wishes he’d turn back around. She can’t bear to see the look in his eyes.

“And you’re mad,” she says hesitantly. Might as well poke the bear and get it over with, she figures.

Her dad barks out a laugh. “Hell yes I’m mad, Beca,” he says, voice just edging on a shout. “I get a call in the middle of the night saying my daughter has been arrested for destruction of property? I think I have the right to be upset.”

Although she’s at fault here, Beca can’t help but get defensive. “I was putting myself out there,” she retorts. “Making memories.”

“If you think I’m going to let you drop out and go back to Seattle after this, I’m not,” her dad tells her firmly. “Get in the car.”

“You’re not even going to hear what I have to say?” Beca questions him desperately.

“No, not tonight,” her dad says, obviously done with talking. Beca pushes back the onslaught of frustrated tears that threaten to escape and climbs into the passenger seat. When her dad turns on the car, Frank Sinatra is playing on the stereo, and she immediately leans over and jabs her finger harshly on the power button, silencing the noise. Then she folds her arms and glares out the window.

The car ride back to campus is tense and quiet. Beca doesn’t speak and neither does her father. When he pulls up next to her dorm building, she pushes open the door and jumps out before the car has even made a complete stop. She slams the door shut behind her and storms to the building, not looking back once.

Beca walks dejectedly down the hall to her room, feeling angry and sad and frustrated. This wasn’t how this night was supposed to go. She was only supposed to go to the stupid competition, hopefully lose said competition, and then maybe cuddle Chloe to console her on the way home. She certainly wasn’t supposed to get arrested.

She just hoped her dad wasn’t serious when he said that she couldn’t quit school anymore. It had to be just a thing he said in the heat of the moment, fueled by anger, right?

Beca sighs and pushes her door open. She’s met with the sight of all the Bellas sitting in her room; piled on the bed, laying on the floor, or – in Aubrey’s case – perched in her desk chair. Various catcalls immediately sound from the girls at her entrance and Beca feels her spirits lift a little at the sight of these weirdos.

“What up, Shawshank?” Amy asks.

“Did you get yourself a bitch?” Cynthia-Rose inquires slyly.

“Did they spray you with a hose?” comes Amy’s second question.

Beca smiles a little and looks at Chloe, who’s sitting on the end of her bed next to Cynthia-Rose. “You guys waited up for me?”

“Of course we waited up for you,” Chloe says softly, pushing herself more upright on the bed.

Suddenly Kimmy Jin materializes in front of Beca. “They’ve been here all night,” she says sharply. “It’s a real inconvenience, Beca.” With that she he walks out of the room, slamming the door behind her.

Beca holds back a smirk at how upset her roommate is as Aubrey stands up from the desk chair. “Beca, I’m glad you’re here,” she says formally, which Beca thinks is odd, considering this is her room. “Our scorecard revealed that the Sockappellas almost beat us. Fat Amy,” she turns her attention on the Aussie, who smiles cheesily up at her. “You have to stick to how we’ve rehearsed,” Aubrey lectures sternly. “No more surprises.”

“We should be taking risks,” Beca interjects, and Aubrey’s attention snaps to her. “It’s not enough to be good; we need to be different.”

Aubrey stares at Beca as if she’s just grown a second head. “And where is this coming from?” she asks incredulously. “You go through rehearsals all year as if you hate being there and now you suddenly want to start making suggestions? That doesn’t seem quite right to me, Beca.”

Beca clenches her jaw to keep from lashing out at Aubrey’s patronizing tone. “Look,” she says through her teeth. “If you want to keep doing the same set over and over again, it’s none of my business. I could not care less,” Beca shakes her head. “But I can’t have been the only one to notice how half our audience was asleep, right?”

She looks at the others and is relieved to see some of them nodding their heads in hesitant agreement. She opens her mouth to speak again but Aubrey cuts her off. “I have the pitch pipe, and I say we do the set-list as planned.”

Chloe starts to speak, “Aubrey, maybe we should consider trying something else-”

“Aca-scuse me?” Aubrey interrupts sharply. Chloe’s mouth snaps shut. Beca’s eyes narrow upon seeing the look of shame that crosses Chloe’s face. “This is the last I want to hear about any this. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going home so I can get some rest. I’ll see you all at rehearsal tomorrow.”

With that, Aubrey shoots one last glare at Beca, which she reciprocates, and exits the room. There’s an awkward silence that follows her departure, and it’s broken by Amy clearing her throat. “Welp,” she says, pushing herself to her feet with a huff. “I think I’ll take my leave as well.” She heads to the door and the rest of the Bellas soon follow suit, murmuring their goodbyes as they leave. Soon, all that’s left is Beca and Chloe.

Chloe stands up from the bed slowly and turns to Beca. Beca gives her a small smile. “Well, thanks for waiting up for me, I guess,” she says awkwardly. Chloe nods her head.

“Of course. It was the least I could- I mean, we, could do.”

Beca smiles for real at her little slip up and folds her arms over her stomach. “I really did appreciate it,” she says sincerely and looks down at her feet.

Then, all at once she’s being enveloped in Chloe’s hug. Strong arms come up around her shoulders and Beca lets her arms loop around Chloe’s middle as warmth fills up every corner of Beca’s body. For once she doesn’t complain; she just lets herself be held. She buries her face in Chloe’s shoulder, breathing in her familiar scent, and feels calmer than she has all night.

She feels a kiss being pressed to the top of her head, and for the first time Beca lets herself think that if Chloe were to remain at Barden for some reason, it wouldn’t be so bad being forced to stay.

Chapter Text

The fighting starts when she’s twelve.

Beca’s parents have never been perfect. Like all human beings, they made mistakes. They lost their cool from time to time, and resorted to brief outbursts when especially frustrated over something, but never anything serious. At the end of the day, Beca knows that her parents love her and that everything will always work out in the end.

And that has always proven true, ever since Beca can remember. Lately, though things have seemed… tense.

It starts out as just little things here and there. Her dad will get home late from the school, and her mom will say passive aggressive words to him while she’s dishing him up some leftover food from dinner. Beca will hear her dad talking lightly about how her mom should try to look into getting a job to help out with some of the bills. Her parents will walk into the living room after having a private conversation, the air tense around them as they try to act natural.

It doesn’t start as anything major, but the speed at which it accelerates to something big is alarming.

Beca will never forget the first night she ever heard her parents fighting.

Her dad had been working late again. After a quiet dinner filled with uncomfortable angry energy coming from her mother, Beca had rushed off to her room to finish her homework and get ready for bed. Anything to get away from the tense atmosphere her mom was giving off.

It was 10:23 when her dad came home. Beca knows, because she had glanced over to take note of the time when she heard the garage door opening, and the numbers had stuck with her ever since. It was 10:23 when her dad got home, and 10:31 when her parents’ voices stopped being hushed.

Her mom was the first one to raise her voice. Beca had been sort of falling asleep when she’d heard a cupboard downstairs slam shut, followed by a sharp, “How long are you going to keep doing this to us, Warren?” that cut through the house.

Her dad was quick to retaliate. “You know these long hours are only temporary, Tina,” he had responded, sounding as though he was trying to remain calm, but his voice rose in volume to match his wife’s nonetheless. “As soon as I finish my doctorate, I’m going to teach at the college. I’ll be making twice as much as I do at the high school now!”

“Yes, but how much of your time will be spent at the college once you start working there?” came her mom’s exasperated voice. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you started looking for any excuse to skip out on spending time with your family.”

“I’m doing this for our family, damn it,” her dad argued. Beca’s eyes had widened at that. She’d never heard her father swear before. “I’m doing this so Beca can have a better life. One where she doesn’t have to be worried about money like we are! If anyone should be at blame for not caring about our daughter, it should be you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” her mother had responded, almost quietly enough that Beca couldn’t hear her.

“Maybe if you actually took some initiative and worked on finding a job instead of sitting on your ass all day, we wouldn’t have to be worried about our finances so much. It seems like I’m the only one actually worried about our daughter’s future here.”

A long stretch of silence had followed, and Beca could feel her mother’s anger seeping up through the floorboards and into her room. “That’s a load of bullshit and you know it!” Her mother finally exploded. “You’re the one who’s draining our finances by paying for more schooling! And don’t even get me started on being worried about Beca’s future. I’ve practically raised her all by myself while you’ve been focused on raising other kids for years!”

Beca heard something slam downstairs, maybe a fist on a countertop. “I’m sorry that I wanted to become an educator for a living,” her dad yelled. “You knew what I wanted to do when you met me!”

“Yeah, well I’m sorry that I ever believed you when you said you’d always put your family above your job!”

Her mother’s hurt words hung in the air of the house. The sound of sobbing followed, her mother’s crying, to be exact, although it was at this point that Beca realized she was crying as well. Silent tears were streaming down her face, her parent’s harsh words towards one another resonating deep inside of her.

The sound of stomping feet started soon after her mom’s tears did. “Where are you going?” her mother suddenly demanded, voice strained from emotion.

“I’m going to Darren’s for the night,” her dad replied bitterly, words clipped. “Give Beca a kiss in the morning for me when she wakes up.”

With that her dad left the house with a slam of the door that rattled the house. Beca heard nothing for the rest of the night but the sounds her own quiet tears, and she was left wishing she had already been asleep when the whole fight started.

Their first fight was months ago, and those months had been filled with periodic late night fights between her parents that Beca had been steadily growing used to. She no longer cried at the harsh words exchanged between the two of them; now she just put her pillow over her head and prayed that they would end the fighting soon so that she wouldn’t be too tired to stay awake in her classes the next day.

Beca didn’t know how long this period of conflict between her parents would last, so all she could hope for was for it to end someday soon.

* * *

 The smoke fills Beca’s lungs as she inhales deeply from her cigarette. She’s leaning against the wall of the rehearsal hall, collecting herself mentally before practice starts.

She wasn’t lying when she told Aubrey that she needed something to deal with her all those months ago.

Beca spots a head of red hair approaching in the distance and smiles as Chloe approaches. The ginger grins at her in return for a moment before sparing a glance at the lit stick in Beca’s hand. Her expression falls a bit, though she tries to hide it. Beca grits her teeth slightly.

She knows Chloe doesn’t like her smoking habit. The senior has insisted over and over again that she doesn’t really care, and that it’s your body, Beca, but Beca can tell that she still disapproves. But Beca hasn’t stopped because of that. Why should she? She’s an adult, after all, and Chloe can’t tell her what to do.

Chloe isn’t really anything of significance to Beca, so there’s no point in changing the way she lives her life for the other girl.

Still, Beca knows she hates it, so she drops the remaining bud on the sidewalk as the ginger approaches, stepping on it with the tip of her sneakered toe to extinguish it. She looks up at Chloe again. “Hey,” she greets with a grin.

“Hey you,” Chloe replies easily. She gestures to the bud on the ground. “Getting your pre-Aubrey fix in for the day?”

Beca shrugs. “Gotta get through these awful rehearsals somehow.”

Chloe rolls her eyes good-naturedly before reaching down to take Beca’s hand to pull her into the rehearsal hall. Aubrey, who’s busy setting up chairs and writing on the whiteboard, looks up at their arrival. Her eyes flick down to their joined hands for a brief moment and her eyes wrinkle in distaste before she focuses on her task at hand once again.

“I should probably help her with all that,” Chloe mumbles quietly and slips her hand from Beca’s to join Aubrey’s side.

Beca slumps down in one of the foldout chairs and pulls out her phone to occupy herself while she waits for the rest of the Bellas to arrive. She’s mindlessly scrolling through Twitter when the sound of hushed, tense words catch her attention.

Aubrey and Chloe are standing at the whiteboard under the pretense of writing the rehearsal schedule down, but there isn’t actually anything productive going on. Chloe’s arms are folded across her chest while Aubrey bears down on the shorter girl.

“You know she’s trouble Chloe,” Aubrey hisses, causing Chloe to flinch. “I don’t understand why you’re so fixated on her.”

Oh great. They were talking about Beca, which was one of Beca’s least favorite topics. Still, years of experience has enabled Beca with the talent of making out words that aren’t meant to be heard. Her ears perk up to listen.

“She’s not like what you think she’s like,” Chloe insists quietly, causing Beca’s heart to warm. “She’s dedicated, and smart, and caring, and-”

“You’re just blinded by your infatuation,” Aubrey snaps, cutting Chloe off. “She’s lazy and arrogant and nothing but trouble.”

Beca expects Chloe to retaliate, but instead the ginger just looks hurt and stares up at Aubrey with her jaw clenched. Her shoulders hunch and she folds her arms submissively.

“If you knew what was good for you, and for the group, you’d stay away from that no-good-”

Beca decides she’s had enough of listening to Aubrey bash her. She clears her throat loudly, cutting off the blonde captain’s rant. The two seniors look over at Beca as if they’ve been caught with their hands in the cookie jar, and Beca raises her eyebrows innocently at them.

“Oh, don’t let me interrupt your Beca-hate session,” she says airily, feigning ignorance. “Please, continue to talk about how terrible I am. I don’t mind.”

Aubrey doesn’t even look the least bit ashamed. She squares her shoulders to Beca. “I believe I’ve made how I feel about you clear, Beca,” she says. “Don’t pretend that you care about the group, or about Chloe, in the slightest.”

Anger floods into Beca’s veins. Chloe stands behind Aubrey, remaining silent. Beca clenches her hands into fists and opens her mouth to retaliate, but at that moment the doors open and a few more of the Bellas come flooding in. Aubrey’s eyes flicker from the rest of the girls to meet Beca’s eyes, giving her one last squint of disapproval before she turns to finish writing on the board.

Beca looks at Chloe to see the other girl looking at her apologetically. She looks away and chooses to glare at a spot on the floor instead.

The rest of practice goes on without any more conflict, though Beca does make a conscious effort to act even more reluctant than usual. If Aubrey insisted she didn’t care about anything, then fine.

Beca would simply not care. It wasn’t hard to do, seeing as she really didn’t care.

As soon as Aubrey dismisses them, Beca shoots out the door. She doesn’t feel like dealing with this day anymore. She’s on her way home when a voice calls out behind her.

“Beca! Wait up!”

Chloe.

Beca rolls her eyes. Of course Chloe would try to talk to her.

Beca doesn’t turn around, but she does slow down her brisk pace in order to let the other girl catch up easier.

“Beca,” Chloe tries to get her to turn around again, slightly out of breath. “Bec, hey, talk to me.”

At this, Beca feels a hand grab her arm to pull her to a complete stop. She shrugs out of the grip as she turns to face Chloe. She raises an eyebrow irritably. “What is it, dude? I have to get to work.”

Chloe flinches at the iciness in Beca’s tone, but Beca can’t find it within herself to feel bad. “I just,” she starts out uncertainly. “I just wanted to apologize for what Aubrey said. None of that is true, you know. She doesn’t know you at all and she’s making unfair assumptions about you and-”

“Why do you let her walk all over you?” Beca interrupts, somewhat aggressively.

Chloe looks taken aback. “Wh-what?”

Beca rolls her eyes. “You never stand up to Aubrey,” she says tiredly. “You let her order you around all the time, she never lets you do anything in rehearsals, and she always shoots down your ideas.” Beca laughs bitterly. “Sometimes it seems like you’re more like her pet than her co-captain.”

Chloe’s eyes widen and she crosses her arms protectively around her middle. “I don’t know what you want me to say, Beca,” she mumbles timidly.

Beca shrugs. “I don’t need you to say anything. I just want you to grow a pair and stand up for yourself once in a while,” Beca takes a couple steps away from Chloe’s hurt gaze. “Or at the very least have the guts to defend your friends when she’s talking shit on them.”

With that, Beca turns and walks away from Chloe, not wanting to see the sad look in her eyes anymore. She doesn’t turn around to see if Chloe’s watching her go, and Chloe doesn’t try to say anything to stop her.

Which is good, because Beca isn’t convinced she wouldn’t stop a second time for Chloe. Or any number of times after that.

* * *

Chloe doesn’t reach out to Beca for two days, and Beca tries to ignore the Chloe-sized hole in her heart. She doesn’t understand why there’s even a hole in the first place; she’s never had a problem with being alone before- welcomed it, even. Still, she finds herself missing the crazy redhead and her chaotic goodness for those two days.

She’s working the afternoon of the third day of radio silence. Well, she’s not really actually working as much as she’s just laying down on the couch making fun of Jesse while he tries to move heavy boxes, but still. She’s at work.

The bell on the door chimes, signaling someone’s entrance into the store. Beca looks over, surprised because no one ever comes to the store, and is further shocked to see Chloe standing there. At Beca’s job. After not talking to her for two whole days.

Beca ignores the way her heart beats faster when she sees the ginger and sits up quickly from her lounging position, almost forcing herself to lose her lunch in the process. “Uh, hey,” she greets the other girl awkwardly.

“Hey,” is Chloe’s quiet response.

Jesse looks between the two of them for an uncomfortable moment before clearing his throat. “I’m just gonna,” he picks up two near-empty garbage bags and points to the door. “Take out the trash.”

Beca waits until he’s made his swift exit to speak. “What’re you doing here?” she asks, wincing at how harsh the words sound. Chloe doesn’t seem to notice.

“Can we talk?” Chloe asks as her anwer.

Beca nods her head and moves to one side of the couch to make room for Chloe. The senior perches herself on the edge of a cushion and angles her body towards Beca. “I’m sorry,” she starts after a moment. “For the other day, I mean. And also for not talking to you for the last few days. Um,” Chloe eyes close as she gathers her thoughts. “I don’t know why I let Aubrey push me around. She’s my best friend, and I know that she’s under a lot of stress right now, so I guess I just don’t want to make her even more stressed than she already is.”

Chloe looks into Beca’s eyes then, and Beca can see the remorse in her bright blue eyes. “She’s my best friend, but that shouldn’t mean that I let her treat you the way she does.”

Beca softens. “Chloe…” she trails off, not sure what to say.

“I promise that I’m going to try to work on speaking my mind around her,” Chloe says resolutely. “And I’m sorry for not standing up for you at practice.”

Just like that, the ice that has surrounded Beca’s heart for the last two days melts instantly. She reaches across the cushion separating them to place a hand on Chloe’s leg. “Thank you,” she says softly. “And I’m sorry for the other day, too,” she adds sheepishly. “There’s probably a better way I could have said all that.”

The tension melts away from Chloe’s shoulders. “But it was true nonetheless,” she says kindly, reaching down to squeeze Beca’s hand. They share a smile for a small moment before the door to the store opens again. Jesse stands in the doorway this time, looking between the two of them warily.

“Is it safe to come in?” he asks jokingly.

Beca rolls her eyes. “Yes, dork. Everything’s fine.”

Chloe squeezes her hand one more time before standing up. “I actually should get going,” she says as Beca stands up as well. She winks at Beca. “I’ll leave you alone and let the two of you get to work.”

Jesse laughs. “I like how you think Beca actually does any work around here,” he jests as he walks back over to the boxes he was moving before. Beca glares at him and throws a magazine at the back of his head. “Hey!”

Chloe starts walking to the door. “Oh, and Becs,” she turn around again to talk. Beca hums for her to continue. “I was wondering if you wanted to go to a concert with me tonight?” Beca’s face automatically morphs into one of disgust and Chloe rushes to keep talking before she can turn the offer down. “And I know you don’t really like listening to music all that much, but my friend is in a band, and they’re playing a gig at this bar tonight, so it’s not really a concert, and they’re actually pretty good so-”

“Okay, okay, I’ll go,” Beca cuts off Chloe’s rambling with an exasperated sigh, reaching a hand up to rub at her temple. “But only if you promise to never talk that fast again.”

Chloe lets out a happy squeal. “Yay! Okay,” she schools her expression. “I’ll pick you up at 8?”

Beca shrugs indifferently. “Sure, whatever, dude.”

The bell above the door to the store jingles as Chloe pushes it open. She smiles one last time at Beca. “You’re the best! See ya!” the door shuts behind her and the store is filled with silence once again.

Jesse is the one to break the quiet, Beca still staring at the door. “You’re gonna go listen to music voluntarily?” he whistles lowly. “She’s got you whipped, Becs.

Beca whips around and picks up another magazine, throwing it at the back of Jesse’s head again. It joins the one on the floor as Jesse laughs teasingly in response.

* * *

The bar is fairly crowded by the time Beca and Chloe get there later that night. Since she’s still not legal, Beca is worried about getting in, even with her fake ID, but luckily Chloe’s friend in the band, Ryan, shows up to let them in. He only stays long enough to let Chloe hug him and tell him good luck before rushing off for sound check.

Chloe tangles her fingers loosely with Beca’s to keep them together in the mass of people while she cranes her head trying to find an empty table. Beca spots one at the edge of the room near the stage and starts pulling Chloe towards it. They sit down and a worker soon comes up to ask if they want anything to drink.

They decide on just a simple beer each and the worker rushes off. Beca looks over at Chloe when they’re alone to see the other girl already looking at her with a smile on her face. She quirks an eyebrow. “What is it?”

Chloe looks away and shakes her head. “I’m just really glad you agreed to come here with me, is all,” she says shyly. “And a little surprised.”

Beca shrugs. “Yeah, well…” she trails off, not really having a specific reason why she agreed to come. If she was being honest, Beca was surprised herself. She’d tried all day, but could not come up with an explanation for why she said yes. So, she just clicks her tongue to end her unfinished thought and lets the topic die.

They sit and watch the band tune up as people start to settle down into tables around them, drinks in hand. Their drinks are brought to them after a few minutes and that’s when Chloe decides to start up a conversation again.

“Have you talked to your dad at all since your fight?” Chloe asks hesitantly, bringing her drink up to her lips to take a sip.

The question catches Beca off guard. “No,” she replies a little shortly. She sees the apology quickly forming on Chloe’s face and feels guilty. She hurries to fix her answer. “I mean, he hasn’t reached out to me since then, and it’s not like I ever really tried to reach out to him before we fought, so,” Beca shrugs and looks down at her drink, swirling the beer in the bottle for a moment before taking a gulp.

“What did you guys fight about?”

This question makes Beca feel uneasy. Chloe knew they had fought because Beca had told her as much, but Beca hadn’t gone into any sort of details about it. She didn’t think Chloe had really cared at the time, so she hadn’t bothered to explain further.

“Well,” Beca starts slowly, avoiding eye contact and trying to act uncaring about the whole thing. “He yelled at me about the whole jail thing and I tried to tell him what happened, but he wouldn’t listen to me.” Beca sighs and picks at the edge of the label on her beer bottle. “We also had this deal that I could drop out at the end of the year, but now he’s saying that the deal’s off because of everything that happened.”

Chloe remains quiet, so Beca looks up at her. She’s wearing an unreadable expression. For a moment Beca thinks she’s about to get lectured about wanting to quit college, but it never comes. Instead, she just asks, “Do you think he was serious, or was he just mad in the moment?”

Beca shrugs helplessly. “I don’t know. His mind seemed pretty made up.”

Chloe reaches over and sets her hand on top of Beca’s where it’s resting on the table. “That sucks,” she says simply, giving Beca’s hand a squeeze. Beca laughs a little in response. “And I don’t know your dad, but I bet if you just talked to him he would come around eventually.”

“I dunno,” Beca says, unconvinced. “Maybe.”

The band starts playing soon after, and Beca had to admit that they weren’t half bad. Their soft, indie vibes were easy to listen to, and Ryan’s lead vocals were soulful and solid. Beca listens to the chord changes and can’t help but think of songs that would go well with them- something she hasn’t done in years. For once instead of fighting it, Beca lets herself relax in her seat and feel the melody surround her.

She’s brought out her trance when she sees Chloe stand up from the table. Beca raises an eyebrow at her when the ginger reaches down to take her hand and start pulling her up from her seat.

“Dance with me?” Chloe asks, her tone a mixture of flirtation and uncertainty all at once.

She briefly flashes back to months ago at the hood night party when Chloe had tried to get Beca to dance with her. She remembers the confusion and hidden sadness in those big blue eyes as she’d turned her down and walked away, trying to shut her out and protect herself.

Beca didn’t want to turn Chloe down anymore, and she was tired of shutting her out.

“Of course I will,” Beca says quietly.

And ultimately, Chloe’s smile is worth any uneasy feelings Beca may have about dancing, or music, or anything else in her life.

Beca pulls Chloe close to her while they sway together to the sound of a soft melody. When she looks into Chloe’s eyes and sees the happiness they hold in this moment, she decides that she would do just about anything to keep that joy there, right where it belonged.

Chapter Text

“So what’s up with you and Chloe?”

The question makes Beca glance up from inspecting a scrape on her forearm that came from sliding down the side of the bowl earlier. She squints at Jesse and turns her attention back to the cut. “Why do you care?’

“Because I’m in love with you and don’t want you to date her.”

That really makes her look up and actually pay attention, but when she sees the joking glint in Jesse’s eyes she scowls and squints. “Have I told you that I hate you?”

Jesse laughs. “Only every day since we met, buddy. And you’re avoiding the question.”

Beca sighs and grabs some medical tape to patch up her wound. She wraps her arm slowly as she thinks. “I don’t really know what we are, if I’m being honest,” she answers eventually. “I mean, we hang out a lot, and I think that she’s fun and cute, and I guess I’ve thought about starting something up, but…” Beca trails off and feels her cheeks flush as she realizes that she’s rambling.

“But you don’t actually want  anything to happen?” Jesse tries to finish.

Beca shrugs and raises her forearm to her mouth to rip the bandage wrappings with her teeth. “It’s not that. It’s just...” she trails off again. “It’s complicated,” she finishes lamely.

Silence comes from Jesse at that, so Beca looks up at him to gauge his reaction. He’s looking at her curiously. “It’s complicated?” he asks.

Beca nods.

“Then don’t complicate it.”

Beca rolls her eyes. “Sure, okay. I’ll just un-complicate it,” she says sarcastically.

Jesse reaches over and flicks her forehead.

“Hey!”

“You have to get out of you head, Beca,” Jesse says, ignoring the icy glare Beca is shooting his way. “You want to be with Chloe. I know you do, even if you’ve been convincing yourself that you don’t.” Beca scoffs and stands up, board in hand as she heads over to an open spot to skate. Jesse hurries after her, carrying his own board, and quickly catches up to her.

“Look, I don’t know what your reasons are for wanting to stay away from Chloe, making yourself miserable as a result, but I think you should forget about them,” Jesse insists. Beca stops and turns around to face him. She looks at him irritably. Jesse softens. “She makes you better, Bec. Whenever you’re with her, you’re a completely different person; a happy person.”

The stubborness inside of her melts away. Beca’s shoulders slump forward and she drops her board on the ground to sit on it. Jesse mirrors her position. “She’s graduating, Jesse,” she says quietly, staring at the cement. “She’s graduating and I’m leaving after this year. I can’t start something only for it to be ripped away from me so quickly.”

Beca feels tears prick her eyes and she swallows, willing herself not to cry. The warm weight of Jesse’s hand comes to rest on her shoulder. She looks up at him to see a small smile on his face and surety in his eyes. “I may not be an expert on relationships,” he says gently, “but I do know that if you want something to work out, you can find a way to make it happen.”

Right at that moment, Beca’s phone buzzes in her back pocket. She pulls it out in front of her to see a Snapchat notification from Chloe. She opens it immediately to see a picture of Chloe in class, looking bored down at the camera. The text included reads “you’re so lucky your classes get done by 2.” It’s not all that exciting, but it still gets the corner of Beca’s mouth to lift a little.

Jesse hums across from her and she looks away from the picture and towards him. He has an I told you so expression on his face, and Beca hates that he might be a little bit right. She rolls her eyes, and he just laughs before patting the side of her knee and standing up. Jesse puts a foot on his board and prepares to ride away, but not before leaving her with a, “Just think about it, Beca.”

Beca looks back down at her phone and sees a follow-up text asking if Beca wanted to grab dinner tonight. She doesn’t hesitate to respond saying yes as she finally stops forcing herself to bury her thoughts and feelings.

She liked Chloe, damn it.

She liked her eyes and her hair and her smile. She liked the way Chloe could cheer her up when she was grouchy and the way she was so, so understanding. Chloe was the best thing that had happened to Beca in a long time, and Beca knew that nothing has made her this happy in years.

Chloe was music to Beca, and Beca was starting to believe that that wasn’t such a bad thing anymore.

When she was with Chloe, she wanted to sing. She wanted to laugh and goof off and forget about the darkness that lurked in her mind; made her want to tear down all of her walls.

With a start, Beca realizes that there are tears streaming down her cheeks. She laughs at the absurdity of it and wipes them away. She gets off the ground and jumps on her board to go catch up with wherever Jesse went, her mind more at peace now than ever before. She considers having a smoke to heighten her clarity, but decides against it.

No drugs could ever give her the same high that the feelings she had for Chloe Beale did.

* * *

Beca hears a door slam shut, her mother’s voice rising in anger soon after, and sighs. She reaches for her the large, bulky headphones that her father had given her for Christmas and slips them over her ears. The noise from her parent’s yelling immediately becomes muffled.

 After about a year of the fighting, Beca knows that the best way to get through the fights is to try and drown them out. She reaches over to her iPod and plugs in the chord of her headphones before hitting shuffle. The shouting from downstairs becomes completely washed away as the sound of Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” fills her ears.

Beca turns her attention back to her homework, humming along to the song under her breath. The next song that comes up is “Wonderwall,” and for some reason it makes Beca take pause. She listens to the chord progression of the song for a moment before walking over to the keyboard set up in the corner of her room. Moving one of the headphone cups off her ear, Beca plays along with the song for a minute.

When the song ends, Beca goes back to Green Day. She listens for a moment and then plays along to it as well. Then, she goes back to the other song. After going back and forth for a while, Beca pauses the music completely and focuses solely on the notes she’s playing. The sound of her parents fighting in the other room is audible to her again, but that doesn’t bother her too much right now.

She was on to something.

Hesitantly, Beca starts to combine the melodies of the two songs. As she goes on experimenting, she realizes that it doesn’t sound all that bad. Excitement lights up within her and she rushes over to her computer, plugging in her headphones once she gets there.

Beca looks up the two songs and is thrilled to find that someone has already combined them into one mashup. She listens eagerly with a smile on her face until the very last note fades out. After that she listens again. And again.

And again.

Around the fourth or fifth time listening to the arrangement, Beca’s mind begins to turn with ideas- with possibilities. She starts thinking of things that she’d do differently; of how she could make it even better.

So, she looks up music programs, finds a free trail for a fairly simple looking one, and downloads it without a second thought. As soon as the program is on her computer, she dives in to start figuring it out.

Her parents’ voices drift away as Beca spends the rest of the night in her room on her laptop, attempting to combine two seemingly different songs into one.

It’s one of the greatest nights she can remember having in a long time.

* * *

The laptop’s harsh light shines on Beca’s face in the dark quiet of her dorm room. Beca slides her finger slowly over the trackpad and hovers her cursor over the icon to her mixing program. She questions what she’s doing – once again – before holding her breath a clicking. The familiar loading box pops up for a minute before the whole program fills her screen.

Beca releases her breath slowly at the sight. She hadn’t anticipated just how nostalgic she’d be upon returning to the mixing program, but she supposes it makes sense. It did, after all, get her through many rough years of her early teen years.

She drums her fingers on her desk and lets her eyes run over all the familiar tabs and tools at her disposal. She clicks on a few and finds that all her settings are still set to be just the way she likes them.

After another moment of putting off the inevitable, Beca launches into action. There’s no more hesitation in her  movements or clicks- she knows exactly what she’s doing. The songs she’s chosen have been stuck in her head for weeks, her mind already brimming with ideas.

Beca’s glad Kimmy Jin isn’t there to see the small, content smile that comes over her face as she works. She wouldn’t want the other girl to think she actually cared about something.

* * *

“I have something for you.”

Beca says the words hesitantly, biting on her thumbnail. Chloe looks up at her from the other side of Beca’s bed. “Really? That’s exciting!”

A blinding grin is on the redhead’s face as she shuts her textbook and moves it to the side, sitting up a little more. Beca stands up from the bed and moves to her desk, waking up her laptop. “Yeah, I, uh, sort of made you something,” Beca says as she opens up her files, avoiding eye contact with Chloe. “It’s not a big deal and it probably sucks, so I totally don’t care if you hate it.”

Chloe scoffs. “Shut up, dork,” she scolds teasingly, moving to the side of the bed closer to the desk. “I’m sure it’s amazing, whatever it is.”

Beca looks at Chloe for a moment and, after deciding that the other girl was being genuine, hits the play button.

A mashup of “Titanium” and “Bulletproof” starts playing from the crappy speakers of Beca’s laptop. It had taken Beca all of about two days to make it; once she’d started she hadn’t been able to stop. The familiar addictive sensation of creating music had overtaken Beca, and she hadn’t wanted to stop for anything. Sure, she’d only gotten about six hours of sleep in the past forty-eight hours, but that didn’t matter.

What mattered now was the look on Chloe Beale’s face as she listened to Beca’s creation. Beca had shared her mixes with lots of people before: parents, friends, teachers. And while they had all seemed to enjoy them for the most part, none of them held a candle to Chloe’s reaction.

Chloe’s eyes had lit up upon hearing the opening notes of “Titanium” before her brow wrinkled slightly in intrigue when the melody of “Bulletproof” was laid over the top. Now, Chloe sat there with her mouth open in awe, a small smile playing at the corners of her lips, and light in her blue eyes.

The expression made Beca want to kiss her, but she ignored that urge for now.

After a few minutes, the final notes of the mix fade out slowly and Beca hits the spacebar on her laptop to prevent it from starting over again. She bites her lip nervously and looks at Chloe. “So? What’d you think?”

Chloe blinks and a wide grin spreads across her face. “You made that?” she asks in wonder.

Beca blushes and nods her head sheepishly. Chloe shoves her shoulder roughly, causing Beca to yelp in surprise.

“Why are you the actual most talented person I know?” Chloe demands, fake aggression in her voice. Beca laughs and steadies herself in her chair. “Seriously, it’s kind of annoying how amazing you are. You have to save some for the rest of us, Bec. Where did you learn to do that?”

Beca clears her throat and closes her laptop before joining Chloe back on the bed, sitting next to her instead of across from her this time. “Just something that I picked up around the end of middle school, I guess,” she says lightly. Chloe stares at her.

“Something you just ‘picked up’,” she repeats, using her fingers to make air quotes.

“Yeah, it was something that,” Beca looks down at her hands in her lap for a moment and clears her throat. “Something that helped to distract me when things were rough at home.”

Chloe’s eyebrows wrinkle in concern. “How so?”

Beca twists her fingers together and focuses on them as she talks. “My parents got divorced when I was fifteen,” she starts. “Naturally, they fought a lot in the years leading up to their split, so I would put on headphones and drown out their voices with music whenever I could. It helped out a little, I guess,” Beca chuckles humorously. “They fought so much that I was able to get actually pretty good at making mixes. Practice makes perfect and all that. Only problem is now all I can associate mixing with is fighting and how sucky that time of my life was.”

A hand comes into Beca’s vision to cover up both of hers twisted together in her lap. Beca looks up to see Chloe’s caring blue eyes trained on her. “I’m sorry you had to go through that,” she says quietly. Sincerely.

Beca shrugs. “A lot of kids go through it,” she says with a sad smile. “I’m not any different than any other person that’s been fucked up from divorce.”

Chloe squeezes her hand. “Still, no child should have to go through that.” Her expression suddenly hardens. “And don’t you dare call yourself fucked up, Beca Mitchell,” she says firmly, bringing up a hand point it accusingly in Beca’s face. “I don’t want to  hear you say that about yourself ever again.”

Something in Beca’s heart snaps or melts or something and Beca finds herself becoming overwhelmed with emotion. Those words, spoken with such surety, with such conviction, creep over Beca’s walls and settle heavily inside her heart. Because the thing is, no one has said something like that to her in a long time.

Her mother was convinced that they were both messed up after the split. She always told Beca that things would never be the same again, and that a piece of themselves would always be broken.

The therapist her school counselor had forced her to see during her junior year of high school had given up on Beca when it became apparent that she wasn’t going to talk about her feelings. Teachers yelled at her and murmured under their breaths about how she was “trouble.”

Her father, maybe the biggest culprit of all, always telling her that she wasn’t going to amount to anything. That she didn’t know what she wanted. That she would never know what she wanted.

Yet, here sat a girl that Beca has known less than a year, telling her that she was not messed up, that she was better than her past. Beca didn’t know if she could completely believe her quite yet, but she wanted to, because Chloe made her feel good. Chloe made her feel like she was worth something again.

Made her feel loved.

So, Beca takes a shaky breath and reaches a hand up to rest on Chloe’s cheek. “Then maybe the only thing fucked up here is how much you mean to me, Chlo,” she murmurs before tilting her head and connecting their lips.

The kiss is soft and brief, and Beca pulls back from it after only a few seconds. She opens her eyes and sees that Chloe’s eyes are shut, but they, too, open a moment later. They both hold their breaths for a beat before something flashes in Chloe’s eyes and she’s pulling Beca back to her with a hand on the back of her neck.

This kiss is rough and passionate, and Beca feels like she’s losing control of her own body. She slowly leans back against her pillows, pulling at Chloe incessantly until the other girl’s body covers her own. One of Beca’s hands tangles itself in red locks while the other slips under Chloe’s shirt, the feeling of hard abdominal muscles only spurring her on. Chloe slips her tongue into her mouth a moment later, and Beca can’t help the moan that escapes in response.

When Chloe breaks her mouth away from Beca’s she doesn’t go very far. She hovers over Beca, panting, and says, “Do you have any idea what putting ‘Titanium’ in that mix did to me?”

Beca lets out a breathy chuckle. “I think I’m starting to get a pretty good idea.”

Not a lot of words are shared after that. Chloe spends time kissing up and down Beca’s neck, never lingering in any place long enough to leave a mark, yet still leaving little nips on the sensitive skin here and there. When Beca feels like she’ll combust if that goes on any longer, she drags Chloe’s lips back to her own.

Eventually their frenzied passion fades away until all that’s left between them is slow, lazy kisses that draw pleasant hums from the back of Chloe’s throat. The senior pulls away with a final nip to Beca’s bottom lip and shifts to the side so that she’s resting her weight on one half of Beca’s body. “I guess now is a good time to tell you that I kind of like you,” she says as she gets settled comfortably, looking up at Beca.

“Only kind of?” Beca asks in a teasing tone, one eyebrow rising challengingly. Chloe giggles and brushes a lock of hair away from Beca’s eyes.

“Okay, kind of a lot,” she amends, and Beca’s eyes crinkle in affection.

“I like you, too,” Beca tells Chloe quietly.

Chloe grins before stretching up to reach for the laptop sitting on the desk above their heads. “Do you have any other mixes you can show me?”

The laptop is placed on Beca’s lap and she sits up a little to prop herself up against the headboard. Chloe follows suit and leans into her side. “I might have one or two that I can show you.”

And it’s weird, because Beca hasn’t done any of this in years, hasn’t even considered going through her music ever since the experience of making them became tainted with hurt. But at the same time it’s not strange at all, because Chloe is excited next to her and likes her and wants Beca to share this part of her life with her.

So Beca plays her a mix, followed by another one, and another, and countless others after that. And with each one that they listen to, Beca can feel the old, hard memories being replaced with new, pleasant ones.

Beca hopes that these memories will be the ones to stick for good.

Chapter Text

The sound of clustered piano notes rings through the empty rehearsal hall as Beca is pushed up against the piano. She moans at the feeling and fumbles behind her to find the fallboard, bringing it down to cover the keys. Chloe’s hands bracket her hips where they rest on the lid, and Beca brings her own hands up to tangle in Chloe’s hair.

They really hadn’t meant to start this in the rehearsal hall. It’s just, Chloe had borrowed a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off from Beca, and she looked really good in it. And Beca maybe hadn’t been able to tear her eyes away from the way Chloe’s ass looked in the leggings she was wearing, which Chloe had definitely noticed and used to her advantage. And when all the other girls cleared out pretty quickly after Aubrey called it a day, Beca just couldn’t help herself from stealing a kiss before heading back to her room….

Except one kiss had led to many kisses, and now Beca was seriously questioning why she ever thought leaving Chloe to go home was ever a good idea.

Beca bites down lightly on Chloe’s bottom lip, to which she is rewarded with a small whimper. Chloe separates from Beca with a gasp to catch her breath, and Beca takes advantage of the moment of weakness to flip their positioning, pushing Chloe’s hips into the piano with her own. She smirks at the surprise on the other girl’s face and starts on the task of kissing Chloe’s neck.

Chloe’s still breathing heavily as she brings her hands up to hold the back of Beca’s head to keep her close. Beca doesn’t mind one bit and nips at Chloe’s thudding pulse point. Chloe inhales sharply and tilts her head farther to the side.

Beca can’t help but smile against smooth skin for a moment because she can’t believe that this is actually her reality right now. For the last two weeks, they’ve been doing this- this being making out whenever they got the chance. They hadn’t put a label on what they were yet, which Beca was fine with; she knew that she liked Chloe, and that Chloe liked her, and that’s she really needed at this point in time.

Plus, if they put a label on it they would probably have to start telling people that they were together, and Beca didn’t want to pop the bubble they were in just yet.

“Bec,” Chloe breathes out, and Beca feels the hands in her hair pull slightly to direct her back into another kiss. Beca grins into the kiss, and soon the two of them are essentially just pressing their smiles against each other. Chloe pulls back with a giggle. “What prompted that?”

Beca raises an eyebrow at Chloe’s coy tone of voice. “Don’t pretend like you don’t know, Beale,” she tells her, reaching down to rest a hand over the swell of Chloe’s butt. Chloe gasps in fake surprise.

“I would never use my feminine figure for my own personal benefit,” Chloe claims teasingly. Beca just hums in reply and leans in to steal a few more kisses before pulling back altogether, sitting down on the piano bench.

Chloe pushes away from the piano to join her on the bench and Beca uncovers the keys once more. She puts her foot on the pedal and tinkers around on the instrument, not really playing anything in particular; just letting her fingers take her wherever they want to go.

“How can you just play without having any sort of music like that?” Chloe asks beside her after a moment, sounding amazed. Beca glances at her out of the corner of her eye.

“I dunno,” she shrugs, shifting her left hand down an octave. “It’s something that I’ve always just been able to do, I guess.” Beca arpeggiates up the piano, crossing her left hand over her right a couple times to play in the upper register of the piano. She smirks at Chloe. “Years of practice helps, too.”

Chloe shakes her head a little with a chuckle. “Show off,” she admonishes good-naturedly while she continues to watch Beca play.

They remain silent for a couple minutes while Beca makes up with a soft melody. Chloe is the first one to speak again. “I wish you could make us a new set list,” she whispers, almost as if she doesn’t want Beca to hear.

Beca hears her loud and clear, though, and immediately stops playing. She turns to look straight on at Chloe, who’s biting her lip with uncertainty. “Do you really mean that?”

Chloe hesitates for a moment before nodding. “What we’re doing now isn’t working, and I feel like you could come up with something way better.”

“Well, I mean, I definitely can,” Beca snorts. “It’s not hard to come up with something better than ‘The Sign’.” Chloe squints at her slightly, and Beca flushes and hurries to amend herself. “Which, you sound great in, by the way, but you have to admit it’s a little dated.”

Chloe’s fake glare dissipates and she lets out a chuckle. “No, you’re definitely not wrong,” she sighs, looking down and reaching out to poke at the piano keys in front of her. “I just wish there was something we could do to make us better.”

“There is, you know,” Beca says, and Chloe turns to look at her again with curiosity in her eyes. “You’re a captain, too, Chlo. You could get Aubrey to change the set.”

Chloe shakes her head. “I couldn’t do that to her,” she says quickly. “That would-”

“Stress her out, I know,” Beca finishes for her, rolling her eyes. “I still think it’s worth a shot, but you can do what you think is best, I guess. If you ever do decide that you want to challenge Aubrey, just know that I’ll be in your corner.”

Chloe seems to soften at this. “Thank you, that means a lot, actually,” she says gently. “And hey,” she nudges Beca’s shoulder, “I’ll always have your back, too.”

Beca smiles at her in gratitude for a moment before turning forward to start pecking at the piano again. She glances over at Chloe when she feels her eyes still on her. “What?”

“Since when do you care about the Bellas so much?” Chloe asks, a teasing lilt to her voice.

Beca scoffs and looks back at the piano. “I don’t.”

Chloe’s hands reach out to take Beca’s hands, stilling them. “Oh, but you totally do!” Chloe says excitedly, a wide grin stretching across her lips.

“I don’t care about anything,” Beca grumbles, pouting.

Chloe giggles and places a quick peck on Beca’s cheek. “Sure you don’t, grumpy.”

Beca doesn’t want to tell her that she actually doesn’t care about the Bellas all that much. Sure, they’ve somehow become some of her closest friends, but she still isn’t invested in them enough to care if they move on after semi-finals or not. Yet, Beca does want them to be better, because Chloe wants them to. Beca couldn’t care less what happened to the Bellas for herself, but deep down she knew that they had to do well for Chloe’s sake.

But that would be too cheesy to say out loud.

“Whatever,” she says instead, ignoring the victorious look in Chloe’s eyes. “Want to learn how to play a song?”

The loud, excited noise that Chloe responds with is enough to make Beca flinch, but she can’t help but smile at the other girl’s enthusiasm. She helps Chloe place her hands where they’re supposed to go and slowly begins to teach her an easy song, ignoring the fact that she’s pretty much already completely head over heels for the girl sitting next to her.

* * *

Beca looks out hopefully into the audience. It’s her first concert as a freshman in high school, and to say that she was excited would be an understatement. Her choir teacher had been so impressed when she auditioned that he put her in the top choir- a feat nearly unheard of. When Beca had told her parents, they had been ecstatic for her, telling her over and over again how proud they were of her. Her dad had taken them all out for ice cream, which is the first time they had done something as a family in months.

Now, as Beca searches the large audience, she can’t help but wonder if her dad had ever actually been excited about her accomplishment at all. Her mom sits all alone amidst the mass of people, a jacket draped over the empty seat next to her reserving the space for her absent husband.

Beca’s heart plummets when she sees that her dad isn’t here, and her mom catches her eye. She gives Beca a sympathetic look, which makes Beca quickly avert her gaze. Beca didn’t want her pity.

Besides, she had been looking forward to this concert since school started, so she had to try and ignore the disappointment she felt growing in her gut. Beca forces a smile on her face as the director cues them to start and loses herself in the music and the familiar rush that singing always brought to her.

When the final notes of their performance ring out through the auditorium and the audience starts cheering their praises to the choir, Beca can’t help but let her eyes slide back over to where her mom is sitting- well standing, now, along with the rest of the audience. The seat reserved for her dad is still empty.

The thundering of applause doesn’t feel quite as satisfying as it did moments ago.

*

Later that night, Beca sits alone at the piano. The rest of the house is quiet; her mom had gone to get ready for bed fifteen minutes ago, leaving Beca to entertain herself for the rest of the night.

Their front room that houses the piano is dark, save for the lamp in the corner that illuminates the room just enough to see the keys of the piano.

Beca is sits in front of the piano with her hands in her lap, trying her best to control the emotions raging inside. There are so many of them that she doesn’t even know what she’s feeling- sadness, disappointment, anger, all swirling around in her mind and taunting her to lose control.

She wants to scream, to cry, to hurt something so that she won’t feel so hurt herself. Beca had gone to the piano in hopes that she could soothe the pain by playing for a little bit, but now she finds that she has no desire to even set her hands on the keys.

So now she sits alone, fighting a war inside that is ultimately leaving her feeling empty. Hollow.

Numb.

Numb is a good way to think of it. Beca figures that numbess is a good way to cope with out of control emotions. Why feel too much when you can just feel nothing at all?

Beca is so disconnected that she only barely registers the sound of the garage door opening. She only becomes aware of what's going on around her when soft footsteps approach her, stopping beside the piano bench. “Hey, Bug,” her dad says quietly. Beca doesn’t look at him, just continues to stare at the keys in front of her in a daze. Out of the corner of her eye she sees a bouquet of flowers being set on the lid of the piano.

Beca chooses to remain silent.

Her dad sighs. “Listen, I’m sorry I didn’t make it to your concert. I know you were really looking forward to it. I got busy grading some papers at the school, and then I got busy making some revisions on my thesis, and then my coworker needed help with…”

He continues talking, making excuse after excuse as to why he wasn’t there, but Beca drones him out. She didn’t want to hear his reasons, and she didn’t know if she wanted to forgive him quite yet. He had said he was sorry, which meant that she should tell him that it was okay, but honestly? Beca didn’t know if it was. He had made her a promise that he would be there, no matter what, and he broke that promise. So it really wasn’t okay that he missed the concert, not really.

Still, Beca knew that she needed to forgive him. He was her father, after all, and Beca knew that he always tried to do what was best for her, even if he wasn’t successful all the time. There would be other concerts, ones that he would for sure make it to.

Plus, Beca knew that her mom was probably going to chew him out later, so it might be better if both of them weren’t mad at him.

“It’s okay,” Beca says after he’s done talking, tearing her eyes away from the piano to look up at him. She pretends it doesn’t bother her how he doesn’t actually look all that apologetic. “You’re a busy guy, I get it.” Beca shrugs her shoulders and looks down at her hands. “There’ll be other concerts.”

Her dad pats her on the shoulder. Places a kiss on top of her head. Beca fights the unfamiliar urge to pull away. “Thank you for understanding, Bec. I don’t know what I did to deserve a kid as good as you.”

Beca forces a stiff laugh out of her mouth. “I do what I can,” she attempts to say lightly. Her dad chuckles in reply and starts making his way out of the room, but Beca spins around on the bench to stop him at the last second. “Do you want to play piano for a little bit before going to bed?” she asks him quickly with wide eyes, causing him to stop and turn to look at her. “It’s been a while since we’ve played together.”

He brings up a hand to scratch at the back of his head. “I don’t think I’m up for playing right now. I’m kind of worn out,” he tells her, avoiding eye contact. “I think I’m just going to head to bed.”

“Oh,” Beca says in a soft voice, feeling her heart sink again. “Yeah, okay. Sounds good.”

“Maybe later,” her dad says noncommittally.

“Maybe later,” Beca echoes unbelievingly.

“Goodnight, Bec.”

“Night, Dad.”

He walks out of the room and Beca hears the sounds of his footsteps on the stairs shortly after, which Beca knows is a prelude to the shouting. She squeezes her eyes shut and breathes deeply; trying to reach that blissful numbness she had felt before.

Beca turns on the bench to face the piano once more and opens her eyes. The keys stare back at her, just asking to be played. Beca reaches out a hand and gently lowers the fallboard, covering the keys for the first time she can remember.

A lone tear rolls down Beca’s cheek, but she hardly notices through the uncomfortable hollowness swallowing her up from the inside.

* * *

 

Beca stares out the window of the bus, watching the scenery pass by, yet not actually processing any of it. There’s a warm weight resting against her right arm that belongs to Chloe, who’s been leaning against her for the better part of half an hour now. Beca’s unsure if the surprisingly quiet senior is asleep, so she focuses all her energy into holding as still as possible so she doesn’t disrupt her.

The bus had been fairly quiet ever since Fat Amy had been by Bumper’s burrito, as if they were all mourning the loss of Amy’s dignity. Amy, however, has held her head high since the incident, seemingly unbothered by the attack. Beca isn’t sure whether that’s due to pride or ignorance, but either way it’s kind of admirable.

Aubrey calls Chloe’s name from a couple rows back, and Chloe sits up to face her, answering Beca’s question as to whether she was asleep or not. Chloe pulls out an earbud to engage in conversation with Aubrey, and Beca watches her for a second before looking forward. She glances at Amy, who is in the driver’s seat in front of her, and notices a splotch of leftover burrito fillings behind her ear.

Beca quickly looks around to see if anyone’s watching before leaning forward in her seat slightly. “You got yourself a little something there,” she informs the Aussie, gesturing to her ear.

“Just leave it,” Amy tells her seriously. “It fuels my hate fire.”

Beca grins a little before leaning back to sit in her seat again. Chloe is facing forward now, both headphones in and humming along quietly to her music. Beca huffs a small sigh and resists the urge to lean over and press her lips against the ginger’s cheek. She goes back to staring out the window instead.

“I hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan,” Chloe suddenly starts singing beside Beca, causing her to look over at the other girl.

Cynthia-Rose joins in with a higher harmony. “Welcome to the land of fame excess.” Chloe looks back at Cynthia-Rose and smiles. “Am I gonna fit in?”

The rest of the Bellas join in on the next line, adding in background parts and additional harmonies. Even Aubrey, who Beca would have thought had never heard the song before, started singing along, though she was obviously trying to act more proper about it.

Beca rolls her eyes and fights to keep the smile off her face, keeping her eyes focused straight ahead of her. The volume rises when the girls start on the first “And the Jay-Z song was on” and Beca glances over to see Chloe, Aubrey, and the rest of the Bellas all closing in on her. She lets out a startled noise, laughing a little.

They all pause in their singing, staring at Beca expectantly. Stacie wiggles her fingers. Aubrey gives her a playfully stern look. Chloe, who’s taken out one earbud at this point, nods her head in encouragement and pokes her side lightly with a grin on her face.

And honestly, Beca really can’t say no to these girls. Not after everything they’ve been through this year.

So Beca rolls her eyes a little, smiles, and starts belting out the words along with the rest of the Bellas.

Beca allows herself to let go all the way and completely jam out to the dumb pop song, which she only feels slightly dumb for doing, but the huge smile overtaking Chloe’s face and the happy look in her eyes is enough to make any embarrassment Beca may feel vanish.

They sing together for all of about twenty seconds before the bus starts making clunking noises, causing all of them to slowly stop their jamming in confusion.

“It’s a… It’s… uhhh…” Amy trials off in her singing, looking down at the gas gauge. “Whoa.”

“What the hell?” Aubrey asks.

“Umm it’s pretty cool, actually,” Amy says lightly. “I think we’re just runnin’ out of gas.”

“No, that can’t be!” Aubrey insists. “You just filled the tank.”

“Yeah, I did,” Amy replies. “And, yet, maybe I didn’t… because I got hit by flying Mexican food.” The rest of the girls shoot worried glances at each other while Amy slowly pulls the bus over. “Aaaand we’re out.”

“Aca-scuse me?” Aubrey asks in disbelief.

“Aca-believe it,” Fat Amy tells her. “Man, what are we gonna do?”

Besides Beca, Chloe closes her eyes and puts her head in her hands, taking deep breaths in an attempt to stay calm. Beca rubs a hand soothingly up and down her back.  Chloe speaks up softly after a moment. “Maybe we could call-”

“No!” Aubrey immediately cuts her off. “Don’t even say it, Chloe. How dare you.”

Beca narrows her eyes at Aubrey.

“No, actually that is a really good idea,” Amy innocently says from the front. “I’ve got Bumper’s number.”

“Why do you have Bumper’s number?” Aubrey asks, exasperated.

Amy starts trying to come up with an explanation, and Beca takes the opportunity of everyone’s attention being focused on that to reach down and take one of Chloe’s hands. Chloe looks up at her gratefully, and Beca squeezes her hand reassuringly before bringing their joined hands up to her lips to brush a quick kiss across Chloe’s knuckles.

And if anyone saw her do that, Beca honestly doesn’t think that would be the worst thing in the world.

* * *

The worst thing in the world, as it turns out, is an hour long bus ride with the Treblemakers.

Beca spent the ride wedged between Chloe and Jessica, listening to Bumper and Amy’s banter while becoming increasingly more and more agitated the whole time. When they finally arrived at their destination, Beca was just about ready to kiss the ground outside the bus.

About an hour later, the Bellas ready themselves for performance and gather backstage. The group going before them, the Footnotes, is good- like, really good. Their lead singer looks about 14, and the way he keeps shooting flirtatious looks at Beca indicates that he acts 14 as well.

Beca hates them.

The longer the Footnotes perform, the more anxious the Bellas seem to get. Most of the girls alternate between pacing, making flustered comments, and nervously watching their set.

A guy comes up to tell Aubrey that they have five minutes, and Stacie whirls on the blonde. “Where’d he come?” she asks worriedly.

Aubrey just shushes her.

Behind her, Beca can hear Amy whispering to Chloe. “It’s over. There’s no way we can beat the Footnotes and the Trebles.”

The Footnotes finish up their set and the audience reacts with thunderous applause. Aubrey beckons them all into a huddle. “We will be fine as long as we do the set list exactly as we rehearsed,” she says sternly, looking right at Fat Amy. “Okay? Exactly.

Amy nods her head a little and averts her eyes. Beca shakes her head at the bullshittery of it all.

“Hands in,” Aubrey orders, glaring daggers at Beca.

“On three or after three?” Stacie asks.

Aubrey’s nostrils flare. “Screw it, let’s just do it.”

The announcer on stage introduces them and the Bellas walk out to polite applause, (forced) smiles on their faces. Aubrey blows into the pitch pipe, counts them off, and then they’re off on their boring old set.

Beca briefly wonders if it’s possible to throw up just from the thought of going through their set again.

She bets Aubrey could do it.

Beca’s actions go on autopilot as she lets her eyes look out into the audience. Their faces are unexcited, uninterested, and all around unimpressed. The DJ pulls out his phone and starts swiping through it, head propped up against his hand. She glances to her left to see the Footnotes dancing mockingly to their arrangement.

Anger and embarrassment overtakes Beca, and a terrible idea flashes through her head. It’s honestly a horrid thing to think of, but Beca has just enough angry adrenaline coursing through her body to be spontaneous and go through with it.

As soon as Chloe’s done with her solo, Beca quickly wets her lip in preparation and starts to sing at the same time Aubrey’s solo starts. “Bulletproof” may not be the easiest song to lay over the top of Ace of Base, but Beca thinks she pulls it off pretty well.

Chloe shoots a shocked – but delighted – expression over her shoulder, and it encourages Beca to keep going, despite the way Aubrey turns fully around to glare right at her.

Actually, maybe the glare is enough by itself. Beca grins cockily at Aubrey and sings even louder.

She sees Amy stumble a little on the choreography next to her, but the other girls don’t seem phased at all by Beca’s addition. Out in the audience the judges are nodding their heads in approval, which gives Beca all the validation she needs to know that she made the right decision.

Beca stops singing the mashup when they switch into “Eternal Flame” and side eyes Aubrey when she feels the blonde staring harshly at her. Beca can’t keep the pleased expression off her face, but continues on with the rest of the set as planned.

As soon as their performance is done, Beca quickly makes her way backstage, already anticipating Aubrey’s wrath. She and Amy exchange goofy looks with each other as they speed walk away, Chloe not far behind them. Soon enough Aubrey comes storming up to Beca through the rest of the Bellas.

“What the hell, Beca?” she demands, pushing her way through Stacie and Cynthia-Rose. “Were you trying to screw us up?”

Beca is immediately on the defensive. “Are you serious?” she asks, a small amount of bite to her tone.

“News flash, this isn’t the Beca show,” Aubrey fires back.

Beca recoils. “Okay, I’m sorry that I messed you up, but in case you hadn’t noticed, everybody pretty much dozed off during our set.”

“It’s not your job to decide what we do and when we do it,” Aubrey tells her haughtily. “Why don’t you ask the rest of the group how they felt about your little improvisation?”

Beca has no comeback for that. Her eyes immediately shoot to Chloe, only to see that their so-called “Co-Captain” was pointedly avoiding her gaze. Hurt flares through Beca, because Chloe had promised her that she would always have her back. Yet now, at the moment of truth, it appeared that all Chloe was full of was empty words. Beca turns her attention towards Fat Amy instead, hoping the bold Australian will be brave enough to speak up.

“Amy?” she implores desperately.

Amy looks at her uncertainly. “It was cool,” she starts timidly. “But, it did take us a little bit by surprise.”

“Yeah, a lot by surprise!” Aubrey immediately jumps in. Beca only glares at her in response. Aubrey straightens her uniform. “I told you she wasn’t Bella.”

“Aubrey, don’t,” Chloe tries to counter weakly, and anger bursts inside Beca.

“No, that’s okay,” Beca says before Chloe or Aubrey can say anything, causing the redhead to look over at her. “You don’t have to pretend you’re allowed to have a say in the group, right?”

Beca can see the way her words affect Chloe, but she can’t find it in herself to feel bad about it. Chloe looks down at her feet and she visibly deflates, sinking in on herself.

Aubrey wasn’t quite done yet. “Your attitude sucks, you’re a grade-A pain in my ass, and I know you’re hooking up with Chloe and I don’t like it.”

Usually these words coming from Aubrey didn’t cut through Beca as much as they were right now, but they hit differently after everything that’s happened in the last minute or so.

“You don’t have to worry about Chloe, Aubrey,” Beca says through gritted teeth. She stares blankly at Chloe, and the other girl looks up to meet her eyes. “Because there is definitely nothing going on there.”

Chloe’s eyes fall away again.

Footsteps approach from behind her, and a familiar voice speaks up. “Hey, is everything alright here?”

Jesse.

Beca whirls on him. “Can you back off?” she snaps.

Jesse holds up his hands in surrender and takes a few steps backwards with wide, concerned eyes. Beca turns back to face the Bellas, resisting the urge to punch Aubrey’s smug face.

“If this is what I get for trying,” Beca says dejectedly, though she doesn’t finish the thought. She spares one last glance at Chloe’s crestfallen expression before pushing through the Trebles and out the backstage door.

The sting of tears threatens her eyes, but Beca only hardens her expression and swallows down the urge to cry. Nobody she’d just left behind was worth any of her time or emotions, and she doesn’t know how they ever tricked her into believing otherwise.

Chapter Text

Three Years Ago

The school bus rumbles to a halt by Beca’s stop, lurching a little when the driver hits the breaks too hard. Beca slings her backpack over her shoulder and climbs down the steps leading down to the sidewalk, music playing loudly from her headphones.

She waves goodbye to one of her friends and makes her way down the street towards her house. It’s a nice day outside; not too warm, despite it being the end of August. The sky is clear, and good energy radiates all around. On top of it all, the beginning of Beca’s sophomore year of high school is going well so far, so she really doesn’t have all that much to complain about at the moment.

When Beca rounds the walkway leading up to the front door of her house, she’s confused to see her dad’s car in the driveway. Normally he didn't get home until much later in the evening. She approaches the house slowly, pulling her headphones to rest around her neck as she walks through the doorway.

“Mom?” Beca calls out. The sound of distant footsteps from upstairs reaches her ears, so she knows she’s not alone in the house. Beca receives no reply, so her mom either doesn’t hear her, or is choosing not to answer.

Beca closes the door softly behind her and drops her bag on the couch in the front room, eyeing the piano for a moment before moving into the kitchen. She’s just pulling a couple Oreos out of the pantry when the sound of heavy stomping starts on the stairs, followed by agitated voices. Beca puts her Oreos down on the counter and goes to investigate.

Even though it’s the middle of the day, her dad is home for some reason. He makes his way down the stairs, duffle bag slung over his shoulder, his wife hot on his heels.

“-can’t do this anymore,” he’s saying, and her mom starts to respond before they both stop at the bottom of the staircase when they realize that Beca is standing there.

Her parents fall still and silent as they look at Beca.

Finally, her dad speaks up. “I thought you had an after school rehearsal today.”

“It got cancelled,” Beca replies warily. “What’s going on here?”

“Nothing,” her mother jumps in quickly. She shoots a pointed look at her husband. “Nothing is happening.”

Her dad scowls. “Like hell it isn’t,” he growls before pushing past Beca to walk into the living room.

“Warren, you can’t actually be serious!” her mother shouts, following quickly behind him. Beca hurries to follow as well, confused as hell.

“Serious about what?” Beca asks.

“You know this has been a long time coming,” her dad responds stiffly, shoving various papers and folders into his work bag. “This hasn’t been working out for years.”

“What’s been a long time coming?” Beca tries again, a terrible feeling dropping into her stomach. Still, her parents continue to ignore her.

“And you think this is the best solution? We can work through this! It doesn’t have to end this way!” Her mom puts a hand on her dad’s arm to try and stop his movements, but he shakes her off. He turns and looks her right in the eyes.

“I think we both know that isn’t true,” he tells her, deadly serious.

There room fall quiet, and Beca decides now might be a good time to speak up again. “What the hell is going on here?”

Her parents slowly turn to look at her. Her mother has tears in her eyes, while her father’s eyes reveal no emotion.

“Bug,” he whispers, taking a step forward and reaching out a hand. Beca takes a step back and shrugs away from his touch.

“What’s going on?” she repeats, quieter this time. She thinks she already knows, but can’t bring herself to believe it.

Her dad squares his shoulders and clenches his jaw. “I’m leaving, Beca,” he says resoundingly, not an ounce of doubt in his words.

Beca feels her heart snap. “What do you mean you’re leaving?”

He smiles sadly at her. “I can’t be here with you two anymore. It’s not fair to either of you,” he tries explaining gently, but still his words cut through Beca like a knife. “I can’t be the person you need in your life anymore.” He looks at his wife with disdain. “I’m tired of trying and not getting anything in return.”

There are no tears coming to Beca’s eyes yet; the shock too great to allow her to register any emotions. She watches her dad pick up his bags as if she’s watching from the other side of a movie screen. She watches as if none of this is real.

Yet, it’s all too real as her mother starts sobbing and screaming obscenities at her father. It’s all too real as he stops by Beca’s frozen body, lightly touching the headphones around her neck – a gift from him – as he stoops down to press a kiss against the top of her head. It’s all too real as he walks out the front door and out of their lives.

That’s when the tears hit Beca- when the door shuts and she’s left alone with her mother’s sobs. She stares blankly at the front door as tears start streaming down her cheeks, but still she remains silent.

Out the window, she can see dark clouds rolling in from the distance, a fitting physical metaphor for how Beca’s life has darkened in the course of a few short minutes.

* * *

Numb.

All Beca feels is nothing, and she can’t decide if that is good or not.

On the one hand, not feeling anything is a good thing, because it means that she doesn’t have to think about how much pain she could be feeling at this point in time. On the other hand, it’s just about the worst thing in the world.

Beca cried for about the first 48 hours of her dad walking out on them. She and her mom sat on the couch and ate pizza and ice cream for two days, not going to work or school. They allowed themselves to feel all the pain and anger that was raging inside, but soon enough all the emotions gave way into a pit of emptiness.

Now, one month later, Beca would give anything to feel hurt like that again. To feel anything again.

She started going back to school a week after he left, though she hasn’t really processed any of the lessons she’s been taught. Her friends know there’s something wrong with her, but they stopped trying to find out. If her teachers can tell that something happened, none of them ask her about it.

Her schoolwork starts falling behind. She stops sitting with her friends at lunch. In choir she is little more than silent body standing amongst singing students.

Her mom isn’t fairing much better. She started going back to work two weeks after that fateful day, only after she was threated to be fired. When she was home, though, Beca never saw her, and even when she did see her it wasn’t the same.

Tina Mitchell was not the same woman that she was a month ago. She used to be a quick-witted, passionate, caring mother that always tried to see the best in situations. Now, she was a ghost of who she used to be. She floated from room to room in a daze, she made dinner only because she had to, she watched TV with glazed eyes so that she could have something to distract her for a little while.

She tried telling Beca that she was fine, that she was happy to finally be done with that selfish, dickhead of a husband, but Beca could clearly see that that was not the truth. Her mother was telling herself that she was fine, but in reality she was slowly falling apart at the seams.

Beca doesn’t know what’s worse at this point: the fact that she’s lost her father, or the fact that she’s gradually losing her mother as well.

A door opens and closes downstairs, making Beca snap out of the thoughtless daze she’d fallen in. Her laptop sits open in front of her, the screen filled with her mixing program. It’s blank, despite the fact that Beca has been sitting at her desk and trying to find inspiration for the past hour.

With a sigh, Beca clicks out of the program and closes her computer, figuring that she should probably go say hi to her mom, considering it was nearly eight in the evening and they hadn’t seen each other yet.

Beca walks into the kitchen to see her mom boiling some water for pasta. The sight brings a bit of hope to Beca’s chest- her mother had a tendency to go days without eating anything lately. Her mom doesn’t notice her enter the room; just continues staring into the pot of water.

Beca clears her throat.

Her mom looks up in surprise. “Oh, Beca. I didn’t realize you were home.”

Beca rolls her eyes. “Where else would I be?”

There’s a pause in the conversation as her mother thinks. “Choir thing, maybe?”

Beca winces. She hadn’t exactly been all that active in the choir program at her school for the past month, and her director wasn’t very happy with her at the moment. “Nope, not tonight,” she responds awkwardly.

Another pause.

“Do you have any plans tonight?” Beca asks eventually as she moves to pull some crackers out of the pantry to snack on.

Her mom shrugs. “Not really,” she says distractedly, stirring the noodles in the pot. “I was probably just going to turn in pretty early. I’m pretty tired today.”

“Today and every day,” Beca murmurs under her breath. She glances at her mom, expecting to be reprimanded for her attitude, but the woman has gone back to staring into the water in a daze.

Beca leans against the counter by the oven and watches her mom as she munches on her crackers, waiting to see if any conversation will start back up.

How was your day at school?

Learn anything interesting?

Are you doing okay?

Menial conversational topics such as these used to make Beca groan and roll her eyes, but at the moment she finds herself desperately wishing her mother would say anything at all. Hell, she’d even take getting lectured at this point.

Yet still, her mom continues to forget she’s there.

Beca pushes off of the counter and leaves the kitchen to shove her feet into a pair of shoes. When she returns, Beca sees that her mother hasn’t moved an inch.

“Is it alright if I go for a walk?” Beca asks loudly from the doorway. Her mom glances up at her.

“Sorry, what was that, dear?” is her mother’s response.

Beca sighs. “I’m going for a walk,” she tells her this time instead of asking. A part of her hopes her mother will tell her no, it’s already too late to be out alone, go do your homework.

“Yeah, alright. That’s fine.”

Beca’s shoulders slump and she spares one last lingering look at the broken woman in front of the stove before turning to leave the house.

*

Beca doesn’t have any specific destination in mind as she walks, though not from lack of options. Living in Seattle means that there are lots of exciting places to explore, but Beca isn’t interested in any of them.

So she simply walks, head down, hands buried in her hoodie pocket, her own muffled thoughts swimming around in the cluttered mess of her mind.

She thinks she might pass by some people, and she thinks they may or may not try talking to her, but Beca doesn’t stop for them. She doesn’t know where she’s going, but she does know that she hasn’t gotten there yet.

Beca doesn’t want to think about any of the same old thoughts in her head. She’s tired of them, tired of the way they’ve settled in her brain like a parasite- slowly destroying her from the inside out.

No, thoughts are no good. Emotions are even worse. Her feet are alright, though. Beca chooses to focus on the light sound of her shoes against the pavement as she walks, focuses on how many steps she can comfortably take in between the lines in the sidewalk.

Left right left, line. Right left right, line. Step step step. Heel toe, heel toe, heel toe…

When she eventually becomes aware of her surroundings, Beca realizes that she’s arrived at a small junkyard. She stands outside the fence, looking in for just a moment before deciding to have a look, because why not? It’s not like she knew where she was going anyways.

The junkyard is all around unremarkable. There are a few trashed cars with the windows all shattered and the hoods dented in, lots of old couches and other pieces of furniture, garbage bags full of who knows what, an old baseball bat that Beca picks up and carries around with no real objective.

Beca wanders aimlessly around for a while before deciding that she should probably head home. She left her phone at home, so she doesn’t know what time it, but at this point it’s late enough to be fully dark outside. The street lamps surrounding the junkyard provide just enough light to be able to see clearly.

Something on the path leading to where she came in makes her stop in her tracks. An old, rundown piano stands amongst the various junk cluttering the yard. It’s an upright piano, not a grand like the one Beca has back home. The wood is chipped and faded, several of its keys are missing, and one of the pedals seems to have been completely ripped out of place. Beca has no doubt it was thrown in here for a reason.

Beca slowly approaches the piano, coming to a stop in front of it. She reaches out a finger, not caring about the possibility of contracting some sort of disease, and gently pushes down on one of the keys. The note comes out severely out of tune and tinny, but it plays, and Beca suddenly feels something inside of her crack.

She hasn’t really let herself process the fact that her dad left her. Maybe some part of her hoped that he would come back someday, but the fact of the matter is that he walked away because things got too hard.

What a shitty thing to do; what kind of father would do that to his own daughter?

The baseball bat in Beca's hand falls to the ground with a thud, followed closely by Beca sitting down hard in the dirt. She pulls her knees up to her chest, buries her head in them, and sobs.

She was never going to have a father again, at least not one that truly cared about her. Did anything he ever said to her actually matter? Did he ever really care?

If he actually cared, he wouldn’t have left. He would have kept fighting to make things better instead of leaving Beca alone with a mother who wasn’t even a person anymore.

Beca looks up at the old piano in front of her, offering no support in this moment whatsoever. Memories of her family playing and singing around the piano in their living room surface in her mind, and Beca feels a fresh wave of tears coming on before she hardens her expression. She slowly gets to her feet, hastily wiping her tears away with her fist before reaching down to pick up the discarded bat.

There’s only the slightest hesitation in her movements before Beca brings the bat up and swings it into the front board above the keys. The tip of the bat crashes right through the wood panel and shockwaves travel up the length of Beca’s arms from the impact. Beca pulls the bat out of the small hole and swings the bat again, this time coming down right on top of the keys.

The piano cries out in agony as the keyboard is smashed in, filling the quiet graveyard with a loud, clustered crash. Beca’s heart clenches only a little at the sound before she brings the bat down again. And again. And again.

Beca doesn’t know if she cries while she destroys the piano in her anger-filled haze. She knows that she yells out in frustration after a while, increasing the speed of her hits, releasing a torrent of unforgiving strikes on the old instrument.

When Beca finally runs out of stamina and the fury subsides, she’s left with the sight of a completely wrecked piano: gaping holes throughout, the wood paneling totally annihilated, the keys in complete disarray. Beca breathes deeply and takes it all in, feeling a sense of calm wash over her- the first positive emotion that she’s felt since her dad left.

With a sniff, Beca drops the baseball bat on the ground. She turns away from the destroyed instrument that she used to love so much and starts on the walk back home.

* * *

“I’m going out,” Beca announces as she rounds the bottom of the stairs, glancing at her mom, who’s sitting on the couch. She continues on to the front door without stopping. All she gets is a distant “have fun” before she’s stepping out into the crisp evening air, skateboard in hand.

Skateboarding was something that she never thought she would get into, if Beca was being honest. For the longest time, music was her thing, so when she decided that she was done with music she’d needed something else to occupy her time. A couple of guys from her homeroom class had asked if she wanted to hang out at the local skate park with them, and Beca hadn’t been able to think of any reason to say no.

Beca had only watched from afar the first few times she went to hang out with the rest of the skaters. She’d never even attempted to skate before, so she had been content to be an observer for a while. Then one drunken night a couple of guys had shoved a board in her hands and told her to give it a whirl.

Skating had made her feel more alive than she had in a long time, even if she epically failed on her first few attempts. The rush of adrenaline through Beca’s veins became addictive to her, as well as the feeling of flying and twisting through the air. Beca was hooked on skateboarding almost instantly.

Flash forward to her junior year, where Beca now goes to the skate park at least two or three times a week, if not more. She has a regular group of people she hangs out with- mostly guys, though a couple of girls do make appearances once in a while. She wasn’t particularly all that close with any of them, but their chaotic energy was a welcome distraction from the lingering pain left over from her dad walking out.

Beca rolls up to the park and sees two of her skating buddies, Briggs and Wyatt, lounging and smoking on a bench near the outer edge. She makes her way over to them and hops off her board, flopping down on the bench next to Briggs. Wyatt, sitting on Briggs’ other side, offers the joint he’s smoking to Beca. She accepts it without a word and takes a long drag, relishing in the way her head gradually starts to become fuzzy.

The rest of the park is empty, which means that the three of them have the freedom to act however they want for the time being. They pass the joint around until they’re floating on a pleasant high, which is a common activity for them nowadays. Beca smokes long enough to clear her head, but stops before her senses become too impaired. There’s still skating to be done, after all.

Beca works on some of her moves for a while as Wyatt and Briggs continue to goof off on the bench, the two of them getting progressively weirder the shorter their joint gets. Beca fails at doing a kickflip, and they good-naturedly hoot and holler at her from a distance for messing up. Still feeling the effects of her own high, Beca just laughs along with them and flips them off.

When Beca gets home later that night, she pauses by the entryway of the front room and glances at the neglected piano resting there. Dust clings to the surface of the instrument- a result of a solid year of not being played.

Beca walks further into the house.

Her mom is asleep on the couch, the TV still playing some show casting colors over the room and a half-finished plate of dinner sitting on the coffee table in front of her. Beca sighs and picks up the plate to carry it to the kitchen. She scrapes the leftover food into the trash and puts the plate in the sink before returning to the living room. She switches off the TV and adjusts the blanket to cover up more of her mom’s shoulders, giving her one last sad look before climbing the stairs to her room.

The small stash of alcohol that Beca has steadily acquired in the back of her closet has come in handy over the past year, and Beca takes advantage of it once again tonight. She grabs a bottle of beer and opens the window in her room leading out to the roof, slipping a light jacket on over her flannel before climbing out the window.

Beca likes the roof. It’s high enough that she can see the lights of downtown Seattle on clear nights, and out of the way enough that no one can really see her when she’s out there. She settles near the edge, one knee bent to her chest while the other foot dangles off the side, and takes a swig of her drink.

She searches inside herself for repressed memories and feelings, wondering if tonight was one of those nights where she would contemplate her life so far, but comes up empty. There is only numbness inside, her heart having forgotten how to feel anymore.

Beca doesn’t mind. She takes another swig of beer and enjoys the feeling of complete and blissful nothing.

* * *

Come home ASAP.

The message stares up at Beca from her too-bright phone screen, causing the noises around her to fall away.

She’s at some nondescript house party that Briggs had dragged her to. Parties really don’t have all that much appeal to her before she actually arrives, but once she’s there Beca always finds herself grateful for the noise, people, and possible drugs and alcohol provided there. It’s nearly impossible to be alone with one’s thoughts with all the distractions a high school party can provide.

She’s in the basement, making fun of some overly cheesy porno with a small group of people when the text comes through. One of the girls that liked to hang around the skaters has plastered herself to Beca’s side, and she’d had to reluctantly pull her hand away from idling drawing patterns on her leg to pull her phone out.

Come home ASAP.

Beca has to read over the text again to make sure she’s actually reading it right. She’s been drinking, so surely her eyes are just deceiving her, right? In her two years of going to parties and essentially doing whatever the fuck she wanted, her mom had never cared enough to know when she was coming home, let alone tell her to come home.

There has to be something pretty serious going on, Beca thinks. She starts to panic slightly. Did the police find her stash of weed in the back of her closet? Did her mom fall and hurt herself somewhere and now she can’t get up? Was child protective services there to take Beca away from her uncaring mother?

No, it couldn’t be that last one. Beca was eighteen now, a legal adult; she could technically go live on her own now if she wanted to. Still, Beca figures that whatever is going on is probably worthy of leaving the party for.

Beca sits up slightly and starts to gently push the girl’s arms off of her shoulders. The girl pouts as she pulls away. “Where are you going?”

Her jacket is on the floor next to the couch, and Beca reaches down to retrieve it before pulling it on. “I’ve got somewhere I need to be,” she tells the girl without looking at her. “I’ll see you around.”

That’s all she says before standing from the couch and making her way out of the house, avoiding conversation with anyone as she goes.

The house the party was held at is only a couple of blocks from Beca’s house, so Beca's walk home isn’t all that long. Beca tries not to let her mind travel to the worst possible scenario in that short amount of time.

Beca walks through her front door and is met with the sight of her mother sitting on the couch in the front room with… her father?

A million thoughts and emotions rush through Beca: confusion, anger, joy, sadness, and more she can’t even place. She finally settles on anger, which is her default mode most of the time anyways. She narrows her eyes at her father.

“What are you doing here?” she asks icily, slowly closing the door behind her. Her dad stands up and takes a couple steps forward.

“Beca, how are you?” he asks, seeming relieved that she was there.

Beca ignores his question. “What are you doing here?” she repeats.

Hurt flashes in her dad’s eyes before he squares his shoulders and stands up straighter. “You’re graduating in a month, yes?”

Beca’s eyes glance quickly at her mom, who’s still seated on the couch, but sees that the woman is only watching the exchange quietly, seemingly without any intentions of jumping in. She focuses back on her father. “Yeah, I am, but I was assuming you weren’t coming based on the way I hadn’t heard from you in nearly three years.”

Her father seems unaffected by her cold tone. “What are your plans for after high school?”

“Why do you care?” Beca fires back, feeling aggravated.

He stiffens. “I just want what’s best for you, Bec.”

Beca’s nostrils flare. “Don’t call me that,” she says, deadly serious. “And don’t think that you can just come back into my life and start telling me what to do.”

“And you’re avoiding the question,” her dad snaps. “Are you planning on going to college?”

Beca’s mouth snaps shut and she remains silent, choosing to just glare at him instead.

“I’m taking that as a no, then.”

“Again, why do you care if I go to college or not?” Beca asks.

“Getting a college education is the single most important thing you can do to assure you have a better future,” her dad says calmly. He narrows his eyes at her. “And based on the way I can smell smoke and alcohol on you from all the way over here, you could use some good direction in your life.”

Beca scoffs in disbelief and subconsciously pulls at her shirt a little, as if that will make the smell of the party vanish. She shakes her head. “Yeah, well, I don’t give two shits on what you think I should do with my life,” she retorts. “You can’t make me do anything.”

Her father’s nostrils flare. “You will go get your degree, Beca,” he says, voice rising as he loses his cool for the first time in their interaction. “I am a professor at Barden University, and you can receive a free education because of that- Free!” He emphasizes, gesturing wildly. “Do you know how great of an opportunity that is? Most students would kill for a free college education.”

“I. Don’t. Care,” Beca speaks through clenched teeth, the anger in her growing. “I’m not going to college just because my dad – who left me when I was fifteen – wants me to.” Beca crosses her arms across her chest and meets her father’s eyes, unwilling to back down.

“Beca, he’s right,” a quiet voice says. Beca’s eyes widen as she looks at her mother, who’s still sitting on the couch and looking sadder than Beca has seen her in a long time.

Rage explodes in Beca’s chest. “You’re taking his side?” She yells in disbelief, staring shocked at her mother. “After all he’s put us through?”

Her mom flinches at her words, but doesn’t back away. “You’re lost, Beca. College can help you find out what you want to do with your life.”

Beca’s mouth falls open and she looks between her parents indignantly. “You guys haven’t agreed on anything in five years, but this is what you choose to team up on me for? Dictating my future?” She runs her hands through her hair angrily before clenching them into fists by her sides.

“We just want what’s best for you,” her dad insists.

Beca recoils. “Stop saying that,” she growls. “Stop saying that because I know that’s not the truth. If you wanted what was best for me, you wouldn’t have walked out on us. You wouldn’t have just given up.” Her voice cracks on the last word and she turns away as she feels her throat start to choke up.

No one says anything for a long moment, and it is her dad that finally breaks the silence. “I’m sorry you feel that way,” he says, quietly yet firmly. “But it’s the truth. You’re going to college and that’s final.”

A tear rolls down Beca’s face as she shakes her head slightly, still turned away from her parents. Her dad starts speaking to her again, trying to ask her about school and how her life is going, but Beca ignores him and starts walking away instead, effectively cutting him off. She hears a disappointed sigh as she climbs the stairs to her room. Her parents start discussing quietly, and Beca slams her door shut so she doesn’t have to hear them anymore.

There was no way she was doing anything either of them wanted her to do. She was in charge of her own life, and she could make her own decisions.

* * *

Her dad takes the liberty of submitting all her application papers for her. When Beca receives her acceptance letter to Barden University a week before graduation, Beca slams her fist into the wall hard enough to leave a hole.

So much for being in charge of her own life.

Beca felt powerless, pointless, and pitiful. She was going to college, and she hadn’t had any say in making that decision.

Chapter Text

Beca’s knees hit hard concrete as she falls off her board, the sensation of fabric and skin tearing sending pain shooting through her legs. She hears Briggs call out to ask if she’s alright from somewhere near the top of the ramp, but Beca waves him off.

The external pain is welcome; it gives Beca a break from her internal heartache.

She struggles to her feet and bends over to instruct the damage on her knees. Just as she’d suspected, her pants are ripped up and one of her knees is bleeding as a result of her skidding across the ground. Beca winces slightly at the sight of blood, but just straightens up and makes her way up the ramp to where a first aid kit was waiting.

The new hole in her jeans gives Beca convenient access to her wound, so she sets to work cleaning it out. Beca pours some water over her knee, ignoring the slight sting that comes as a result, and digs around in the first aid bag for a Band-Aid. She hears someone plop down on the bench beside her – probably Wyatt based on the now present scent of weed in the air – but chooses not to speak until prompted.

“So, Beca,” her friend says after a moment.

And there it is.

“So, Wyatt,” she replies in kind, her focus on unwrapping her precious Band-Aid from its wrapper.

Wyatt chuckles goofily next to her, and Beca fights off a grin at the familiar sound. “What’s going on with you, dude?” he asks, nudging her shoulder a little bit as he lights up a joint beside her. “You’ve been home for Spring break for, what- five days now? Why haven’t you regaled us with any stories from your time amongst the knowledge seekers?”

Beca rolls her eyes. “Either you’re not high enough to forget how to use big words, or you’re just high enough to start using them.” She glances at him teasingly with a raised eyebrow.

He wiggles his own eyebrows in response. “I’m gonna go with the second one,” he replies cheekily. Beca just laughs and steals his joint for a quick drag of her own before returning her attention to patching up her knee. Wyatt continues smoking quietly beside her.

“School sucks, man,” she says after a moment, choosing to keep her eyes focused on her wound. She smooths the bandage out over her cuts with some level of satisfaction, enjoying the way the injury seems to disappear completely. Out of sight, out of mind. “It’s just as bad as I thought it’d be.”

“I mean, yeah,” is Wyatt’s remarkable response. Beca looks at him to see an indifferent look on his face as he watches other skateboarders goof off around them. “There’s a reason none of us wanted to go to college. It’s a waste of time.”

Uncertainty flashes through Beca’s mind at that, but she ignores it and turns her head away to watch Briggs grinding a rail with mild interest and a slight scowl. “You’re telling me.”

“So have you had any fun at school at least?” Wyatt asks after a small lull in the conversation. “Like, do have anyone you hang out with, or are you doing the whole ‘lone wolf’ thing again?”

The question causes Beca to briefly think back on unwelcomed memories from the last few months- most having to do with a certain redhead that Beca’s been spending the entirety of the break trying to forget. The only problem is, Chloe Beale is not someone that you can just forget.

Try as she might, Beca can still remember the look on Chloe’s face as she walked away from her after semi-finals. The hurt and heartbreak that shown on the other girl’s face as Beca declared they were nothing is there in Beca’s mind every time she closes her eyes, which had also caused serious sleeping problems for Beca. Instead of sleeping, Beca had devoted her time to skating and partying with acquaintances- just like the good ‘ol days.

Though the parties may be a welcomed distraction, Beca has found herself yearning for the quiet afternoons she and Chloe often spent together: walks around campus, doing homework in Beca’s dorm room, lazy Sunday afternoons where Beca would run her hands through ginger locks while Chloe napped.

Beca hated how much Chloe made her not hate being at school.

She also hated how often she checked her phone for notifications. It was automatic at this point; every so often she would turn her screen on to make sure she didn’t have any texts that came through, but each time she looked, she was met with the sight of no new texts.

Beca clicks on her phone now, just to make sure.

Nothing.

Whatever. Didn’t matter.

She snatches the joint from Wyatt’s fingers. “You know me,” she says after inhaling smoke deeply, letting it out in a slow stream with her next exhale. “I’ve never been one to be overly attached to anything.”

“Amen to that, man,” Wyatt agrees, stealing the stick back to finish the rest off. He stamps the bud on the ground with his sneakered toe and pushes himself to his feet. “I’m gonna go show Briggs up on that rail. You wanna come?” he implores, then chuckles. “You could probably show us both up, to be honest.”

Beca forces a small grin on her face. “I think I’m actually going to head home,” she says instead of accepting, getting to her feet as well. “My mom is taking me out to dinner before I leave again.”

“Right on, dude,” is Wyatt’s response. He fist bumps her before riding over to where Briggs is, and Beca waves in departure to both of them before hoping on her board and making her way out of the skate park.

Beca takes the long way home, skating leisurely since she was in no rush. Her mom wasn’t taking her to dinner; in fact, Beca had hardly spoken to the woman since getting home for break. Long work hours on her mom’s end, plus Beca’s attempts at distracting herself have just resulted in not a whole lot of time spent together. Beca didn’t mind, though. She doubted her mom would have anything substantial to say to her anyways.

The sun is just setting in the sky when she arrives home, and Beca uses her key to unlock the empty house’s door. The front entryway is dark, but Beca doesn’t bother turning on any lights yet, opting to just rely on the fading light shining through the windows. Beca automatically heads in the direction of the stairs that lead up to her room, but pauses while passing the front room.

The piano that she has spent so many hours playing sits in its usual place under the window, the setting sun outside casting a faint orange glow on the polished wooden surface. The keys are covered, much in the way they were when Beca left for Barden. Beca studies the instrument for a moment before turning and taking a step away from the front room, but stops after only two steps and turns back around. She squints at the piano.

“And what do you want?” Her voice cuts through the empty air in the house, and Beca takes a few cautious steps towards the instrument.

The piano does not reply.

“Look at me. I must really be crazy, talking to a piano,” she mutters, laughing numbly. She wipes a finger through the dust covering the lid and slowly sinks down to sit on the piano’s bench, resting her elbows on the covered keys and putting her head in her hands. “Why am I such a mess?” she asks dejectedly.

Still, the piano remains silent.

Beca picks up her head and flops her hands down in her lap. She pulls her phone out of her pocket and places it on the bench next to her, turning it on briefly to check for notifications. As usual, no new messages appear on the screen. Beca sighs and glares at the piano as if it was judging her. “You’re not much help at all, you know that?” she tells the instrument.

Again, no answer.

She spends another moment squinting at the piano before letting out a resigned puff of breath. “Fine,” she murmurs under her breath as she lifts the fallboard up to expose the keys. “You win this time.”

When Beca places her hands on the keyboard and begins to play, she feels as though the piano finally responds to her. Beca plays with no real direction, no thoughts going through her mind. Her fingers dance over the notes on their own free will, and Beca finds herself taking comfort in the way the familiar action of playing eases her troubled emotions.

Soon enough it has gotten dark enough outside that Beca can no longer making out the piano very well, seeing as she hadn’t bothered turning on any lights upon arriving home. Beca pulls her hands away from the keys and reaches up to close the fallboard, but hesitates before she can pull it down.

The keys have spent enough time closed off, Beca thinks.

Beca wrinkles her nose at how lame that metaphor is for her life.

The keys remain uncovered as Beca rises from the bench and makes her way up to her room.

* * *

“What’s your favorite song?” Chloe asks, propping herself up on elbow from her place lying on Beca’s bed. Beca herself sits on the floor facing the bed, busy cleaning marks off the grip tape on her board. She looks up at Chloe’s question.

“I would’ve thought that you'd know I don’t listen to all that much music by now,” she replies wryly, focusing her attention back on her board.

Chloe huffs and pushes herself into a sitting position. “So you don’t have any songs you like?” she presses. “Not even from when you were a kid?”

“What’s your favorite song?” Beca retorts, redirecting the question.

“That’s not fair,” Chloe pouts.

Beca raises an eyebrow at her. “Then why’d you ask me the same question?”

Chloe opens her mouth, trying to come up with a response to that, but ends up shutting it again a moment later. Beca holds back a smug grin and looks back down at her board.

“Okay, well the thing is,” Chloe starts again. Beca sighs and sets her skateboard to the side; she’d have to work on it some other time. “It’s not a fair question because I don’t have just one favorite song.”

“Okay, what are you favorite songs, plural, then?” Beca asks, chuckling and shaking her head. She pushes off the floor and flops down on her stomach next to Chloe, who is still sitting upright, now deep in thought.

“Well, there’s Titanium, for obvious reasons,” Chloe starts out, shooting a suggestive wink towards Beca, who immediately flushes and lightly shoves Chloe’s leg with a laugh.

“Gross, dude. What else?”

Chloe begins to think again, and Beca ignores how easy the smile that comes to her face is as she watches the ginger ponder. “I’ve always been a big fan of ‘Here Comes the Sun,’” she eventually decides, nodding her head at the conclusion. “My parents used to call me their little sunshine when I was a kid, so I’ve just always had a soft spot for it.” Chloe starts humming the melody quietly and looks down at Beca with a smile on her face.

Beca listens to Chloe, debating with herself internally. Eventually Beca sighs a little and rolls onto her back. “Somethin’ Stupid,” she says, eyes trained on the ceiling.

Chloe’s humming ceases. “What?” she asks, a crease appearing between her eyebrows.

“It’s a Frank Sinatra song- a duet he sings with his daughter,” Beca explains further. “My dad and I used to sing it together when I was a kid, before he, uh, walked out.” She clears her throat awkwardly and starts picking at her cuticles. “My dad wasn’t the best singer, but he always loved singing with me, which is a good thing since I always wanted someone to sing with. My mom played a little guitar, and she would pull it out on occasion and try to play some chords along with us, even if she usually didn’t do a very good job.” Beca chuckles a little at the memories of her mom and dad playfully teasing each other when one of them would mess up a note or chord. It was the healthy kind of fighting- the kind of fighting that was more for show and flirting purposes than anything

Beca’s thoughts stray to nights spent listening to her parents actually fighting with one another, which dampens Beca’s moment of brief reminiscence instantly. The smile falls from her face while she shrugs as best as she can while laying down and laces her fingers together over her stomach before meeting Chloe’s watchful gaze. “I dunno. I guess the song has always just stuck with me, even through all the rough years.”

A soft smile forms on Chloe’s lips, and the other girl leans over to kiss Beca gently. Beca closes her eyes contently at the action, letting Chloe pull back after a few seconds and resisting the urge to deepen the kiss.

“Thank you for telling me that,” Chloe whispers, face still hovering close above Beca’s. Beca grins a little.

“You’re the one that asked the question,” she replies just as quietly. “Of course I was going to answer.”

Chloe giggles a little before leaning in to kiss her again, and Beca lets herself get lost in the way her heart beats fast and how her lips turn up in a smile with each new kiss.

* * *

The scotch that Beca had stolen from her mom’s liquor cabinet sits next to Beca on the roof, untouched save for a couple sips taken about an hour ago. It was weird, but drinking her feelings away didn’t have quite the same appeal as it did a few months ago. Roof time used to be drinking time for Beca, but she just didn’t feel like numbing her feelings at the moment.

It was so hard going back to feeling sad and numb after being truly happy for the first time in years.

Beca checks her phone.

Nothing.

She sighs and stares at her screen until it automatically fades to black again. Beca rests her crossed arms over the top of her bent knees and rests her chin on them, focusing on the lights of the city in the distance. From here she can just make out the shape of the Space Needle, as well as a few other buildings she sort of recognizes. The noises of cars passing by from nearby is the only thing breaking the silent night air, and Beca lets the familiarity of it all wash over her, soothing her a little.

“Knock knock,” a voice says behind her.

Though Beca is surprised by her mother’s unexpected visit, she doesn’t turn around to greet her. “Hey,” she says with no enthusiasm. Beca hears shuffling as her mom climbs out the window and onto the roof.

Her mom slides her way over to sit beside Beca, and out of the corner of her eye Beca sees her eye Beca’s drink, but doesn’t comment. “How you doing, kid?”

“Fine,” is Beca’s automatic response. She winces slightly at the snappy tone she uses. “Just, you know, tired and stuff.”

“And stuff,” her mom echoes, humming a little. The woman says nothing else for a while, and Beca feels herself become more anxious the longer they sit there together. Beca finally turns her head to look at her mom and sees that her eyes are also focused on the city lights.

“What are you doing here?” Beca finally asks, a little shortly.

Her mom shrugs. “This is my house, isn’t it?” she says, seemingly unbothered by Beca’s tone. “I think I have the right to sit on my own roof.”

Beca huffs. “Yeah, but what are you doing here with me?” she tries again, turning away from her mom again. “You’ve been doing a pretty good job at ignoring me all week, why stop now?”

Her mom sighs sadly. “Listen, Beca, I know I haven’t been the best mother lately.”

Beca rolls her eyes. “That’s an understatement,” she mumbles under her breath.

“And I’m sorry for that,” her mom continues softly. “I’m so sorry that I shut you out after your father left. It wasn’t fair to you in any way, and I’m ashamed that it’s taken me so long to realize that I was even doing it at all.” Her mom’s voice tightens as she talks, and Beca feels a lump form in her own throat in response.

Beca chooses to remain silent.

“I was so focused on my own hurt feelings for so long that I didn’t realize how much I was hurting you. It felt like I was in a mindless daze for three years, and it was only after you went away to school that I was able to snap out of it.” Beca turns her head slowly to see tears on her mother’s face, shocked by the first show of real emotions since right after her dad left. “It didn’t hit me until I was truly alone how terrible I’ve been the past few years,” her mom says, wiping tears off her cheeks. “I- I don’t know if you’ll be able to forgive me, but I’m willing to work to earn your forgiveness in whatever ways I can.”

Beca looks into pleading blue eyes, so much like her own, and feels all the anger and resentment she’s harbored towards her mother melt away. “You don’t have to earn anything,” Beca tells her gently, and Beca can see the surprise on her mom’s face at the words. “Of course I’ll forgive you. It was a rough few years for both of us, and I definitely could’ve handled it better, too. Just,” Beca puts on a faux stern face, “don’t let it happen again.”

A relieved, albeit shaky, chuckle sounds from her mom and Beca smiles at her reassuringly. “Are you too old for hugs from your mom?” she asks, holding out her arms hopefully.

The lump in Beca’s throat tightens even more. “I’ll never be too old for a hug from mom,” she says thickly before leaning into her mother’s embrace. Beca closes her eyes contently as something settles in her chest, making her feel calm.

After a moment of just sitting and holding each other quietly, Beca’s mom pulls back. “So,” she says, brushing a lock of Beca’s hair behind her ear. “How’s college? Is it as bad as you thought it would be?”

And just like that, Beca is spilling out everything that’s happened at Barden like the last three years of miscommunication never happened between them. She tells her about her job at the skate shop, and about how annoying Jesse is. She tells her about joining the Bellas and what competitions are like (though she leaves out the getting arrested part).

Beca spends a lot of time talking about Chloe- about how she convinced her to join the Bellas, about how kind and understanding she is; how she doesn’t seem to mind Beca’s perpetually grumpy mood and constant sarcasm.

About how she feels like Chloe has steadily broken down her walls.

How Chloe makes her want to be a better person.

“And mom, I,” Beca takes a moment to catch her breath, just now realizing how long she’s been talking for. Her mom doesn’t seem to mind; there’s a light in her eyes that Beca hasn’t seen in a long time, one that Beca hopes is here to stay for a while. “I started playing again.”

Her mom’s eyebrows raise in surprise. “Piano?”

Beca smiles a little. “Piano, yeah,” she confirms. “Chloe asked if I did anything other than skate one day and I just… showed her. I didn’t even think twice about it.”

“How did it feel? Playing again,” her mom inquires.

“It felt…” Beca trails off for a moment, trying to find the right words. “It felt like I never stopped.”

Her mom smiles. “And based on the way the piano keys were open earlier, you’ve been playing ever since?”

Beca laughs. “I knew I should’ve covered them up again. Is that the only reason you came up here to talk to me?” she teases without mirth.

“No, but I was curious about it,” her mom reveals with a chuckle of her own. She sobers up a moment later. “I’m glad to hear that you’re playing again, though. I know that it’s something you used to really love.”

“I mean, it’s fine, I guess,” Beca says with a shrug, her tone giving away to the fact that she’s only joking.

“And,” her mom says hesitantly, “Based on the way you talk about this Chloe girl, I’m thinking piano isn’t the only thing you love.”

Beca’s mouth opens and closes at that, shocked to say the least. Her phone lights up with a Snapchat notification from Briggs, drawing Beca’s attention to the screen. She swipes the notification away and takes a moment to look at her screensaver. It’s a picture of she and Chloe, taken a couple of days before semi-finals. Chloe holds the phone while kissing Beca on the cheek, Beca’s face wrinkled up in fake discomfort. Chloe had teased Beca about how cute she was when she was grumpy, to which Beca had just rolled her eyes affectionately without complaint.

The memory brings a tender smile to Beca’s face. “Yeah,” she tells her mom, still looking down at her screensaver. “I guess you’re right.”

Chapter Text

Footnotes disqualified, practice on Sunday. Please come Becs… we need you.

Beca doesn’t know how long she’s been standing in the middle of baggage claim, staring at the message on her phone. The last thing she had been expecting upon turning her phone off airplane mode was a text from Chloe, let alone a text telling her that the Bellas weren’t finished after all.

Some guy bumps into her. “Watch where you’re standing, kid,” he tells her gruffly, and Beca can’t even find it within herself to reply haughtily in return.

Still, she figures it probably is a good idea to move out of the flow of foot traffic, so she reluctantly pockets her phone and moves to retrieve her bag from the conveyer belt.

Beca takes a taxi to campus from the airport, just like she did what seems like a lifetime ago. Her driver hardly speaks two words to her- he just asks her where she’s going and turns the radio up so it’s playing quietly through the car’s speakers.

The Beca that had ridden in a taxi at the beginning of the school year would have irritably told the driver to turn off the music, but then again, Beca isn’t the same person as she was all those months ago. So instead of yelling at the driver, she just turns to look out the window and enjoys the ride.

* * *

After tossing and turning in bed for a few hours, Beca groans in defeat and sits up. She fumbles for her phone sitting on her desk and swipes to unlock it, blinking from the sudden assault of brightness on her eyes. The phone automatically opens up to the last thing she had been looking at before attempting to sleep.

Footnotes disqualified, practice on Sunday. Please come Becs… we need you.

The text from Chloe had been weighing heavily on her mind since she first saw it, and Beca had yet to decide what to do about it. She hadn’t responded, since she wasn’t sure what she would even say in reply.

Sounds good, see you then.

Fuck you, I’m never going back to the Bellas again.

How could you ever forgive me for being so cruel?

No, Beca had no idea what she would say, so she decided to just ignore the message altogether.

Except, ignoring the message turned out to be a whole lot harder than she expected. Beca’s thoughts and feelings continued to wage war with one another, each having its own ideas on what Beca should do. On one hand, Beca still felt hurt and betrayed by the Bellas. They had abandoned her in her time of need and then proceeded to ignore her for the entirety of the break. Not one apology text, not one Snapchat checking in on her- not even a poke on Facebook that she would usually find extremely annoying, but would have ultimately made her feel less abandoned this time around.

The Bellas obviously didn’t care about her, so what did she owe them?

On the other hand, there was Chloe.

Although her hurt feelings about the Bellas as a whole had lingered, albeit diminished, throughout the course of the break, Beca’s anger towards Chloe had all but been expelled completely. The fact of the matter was that Beca had missed Chloe, more than she’d ever missed anyone else in her life.

So Beca’s stupid feelings had to also be taken into account here.

Ugh. Gross.

Finally, deep down Beca also had guilt for what she’d said and done at semi-finals. Changing the set list like she’d done probably hadn’t been the best idea in retrospect, and Aubrey had every right to be mad at her. So mad, in fact, that she had removed Beca from the Bella group chat, effectively kicking her out of the group with little more than a tap of her finger.

Beca had probably deserved it. Whatever.

Ultimately she had walked away from her team, and the knowledge of that contributed to Beca’s inability to sleep as well.

Beca flops back down onto her pillows, pressing the heels of her hands into her closed eyes and wishing her thoughts would shut themselves off. After attempting – and failing – to get some sleep for a few minutes, Beca finally accepts defeat and climbs out of bed.

Moving as quietly as she can, Beca pulls on some pants and shoes, careful not to wake up Kimmy Jin. The other girl rolls over in her sleep at one point while Beca is attempting to pull up her pants, causing Beca to nearly fall over in her haste to finish getting dressed. Kimmy Jin sleeps on, though, and Beca is able to finish her late night excursion without much more trouble.

Beca decides it’s probably a good idea to wear some sort of jacket, so she throws a hoodie on over her t-shirt. She sticks her hands in the pockets out of habit and feels the familiar shape of a cigarette box hit her hand. With a frown, Beca pulls out the box and examines it, contemplating whether or not to take it with her. They might help her to take the edge off a little.

After another moment of thought, the cigarettes are shoved in a desk drawer before Beca grabs her skateboard and walks out the dorm room.

* * *

Beca skates until it turns light outside and somehow finds herself in her dad’s neighborhood. She had only been to his house once, for a disastrous dinner at the beginning of the school year, but it was pretty hard to forget all the big, impressive houses that make up the area.

With no other destination in mind and no idea what she’s even doing anymore, Beca idly makes her way to her dad’s house. She comes to a stop at the end of the walkway leading up to the front door and stares at the house, wondering what the hell she was even doing there.

The house stares back at her, seemingly challenging her to move closer.

Beca lifts her chin in defiance and kicks her board up to her hands. No stupid house was going to intimidate her.

Plus, Beca thinks as she shuffles up the walkway, if anyone had experience with running away from things, it was her dad. Maybe he could actually give her some worthwhile advice for once.

As Beca rings the doorbell, the thought suddenly occurs to her that it may be way too early for this. It was Sunday, after all, and there was a good chance that he would still be sleeping. Panic grips Beca at the thought that she woke him up, and now he would be grumpy and oh god she should probably just turn around and leave now and let him think it was a doorbell ditcher and-

The door opens to reveal her father, looking very much surprised but also very much not like he just woke up. In fact, he looked ready for the day already, despite it being the weekend.

“Beca,” he says in shock. “What are you doing here?”

He doesn’t sound mad, which Beca figures is a good sign. “I, um, was wondering if I could get some advice,” she says awkwardly, shoving the hand not holding her board into her hoodie pocket.

Her dad’s eyebrows raise in further bafflement. “Oh, well of course! Uh, why don’t you come in,” he says hastily, moving to the side to let Beca step into the house. He shuts the door and studies her for a moment. Beca realizes that she must look like a nightmare, considering the fact that she’s gotten very little sleep in the last few days and has been skateboarding all night. Her dad doesn’t comment on how tired she looks, though. Instead, all he says is, “I just made up a pot of coffee. We can chat over some of that.”

Next thing she knows, Beca is sitting at the island in her dad’s kitchen as he prepares two mugs of coffee for them. She swings her feet idly on her stool and looks around, baffled by how normal it all seems. It should be weird to be here with her dad after so many years of not speaking to each other, but instead it just… isn’t.

“So, no Sheila this morning?” she asks somewhat awkwardly, feeling as though some sort of small talk is in order. Beca gives herself a mental pat on the back for refraining from calling Sheila the Step-Monster.

Her dad glances up from pouring coffee at her, as if also surprised by her lack of sarcasm. “No Sheila,” he confirms, setting the coffee pot down. “She’s at a conference in San Diego.”

Beca nods her head a little in acknowledgment as he slides a mug in her direction. She picks up the coffee gratefully and takes a sip. “Cool,” she says simply.

An awkward pause follows, one in which the two of them take turns drinking from their coffee, until her dad breaks the silence. “So what is it you wanted to talk about?”

Beca cups her mug between her hands and blows some of the steam rolling off the top away as she gathers her words. “You know that a cappella group I joined?”

Her dad raises an eyebrow. “The one that got you arrested?” he asks, though his tone sounds more teasing than angry. “Yeah, I might remember them.”

“Yeah, them,” Beca says, avoiding eye contact. “Um, some stuff went down before Spring break with them, and I ended up walking away from the group. They didn’t have my back like I thought they did, so I decided that I would be done with them. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, but I got a text from…” Beca pauses as she tries to decide what to call Chloe, “one of the girls in the group,” she decides on, “asking me to come to practice.”

“So they don’t care that you quit?” Beca peers up at her dad, surprised to see no disappointment present in his features from the fact.

“Apparantly not,” she says with a shrug. “Except now I don’t know what to do, because they basically abandoned me and I’m mad at them, but also…” Beca trails off, not really sure how to finish the thought.

“But, you also miss them?” her dad tries to finish for her.

Beca slumps on her stool. “I guess so,” she admits, watching her dad pour them both more coffee. "No one was more surprised than me, but I really liked those girls.”

“And you, uh, thought quitting was the answer?” her dad questions.

Irritation flares up in Beca. “Seriously?” she says offensively. “You can say that to me?”

“Oh come on, Bec,” he sighs, sitting down on the stool next to her. “That is so unfair.” Beca rolls her eyes. “Your mom and I- we didn’t work, but I tried so hard to make things right between us. But you just shut me out.”

“Yeah well I shut everybody out, don’t take it personally,” Beca says tiredly, looking down at the floor. She shakes her head dejectedly and meets his eyes again. “It’s just easier.”

“It’s also really lonely,” her dad tells her solemnly, and for the first time in forever Beca doesn’t have the desire to roll her eyes at his words. She looks in her father’s eyes and sees truth behind them, as if he knows from personal experience how lonely shutting people out can be.

Maybe it was hard for him to walk out on them after all.

Beca’s eyes look around the room as she processes his words. Her head falls forward and she laughs in frustration. “What do I do?” she asks desperately, feeling like a little girl asking her dad for help with a math problem.

Her dad nods his head a little, a small smirk playing at the corners of his mouth. “Well that’s up to you,” is all he says, a twinkle in his eye as if he already knows what she is going to do.

Beca looks out the window and realizes that she’s known her answer all along, even if she was too stubborn to admit it to herself. She side eyes her father suspiciously. “You know, it’s annoying how similar we are,” she grumbles, slipping off her stool and making her way to the front door.

He follows her out of the kitchen. “Believe me, I wish you were more like your mother,” he says with a chuckle. “I’m not exactly a great role model to look up to.” That’s said with more seriousness than before, and Beca looks back at him to see a sheepish expression on his face.

“I don’t know,” Beca says breezily, grabbing her board and opening the front door. She turns around to look at her dad with a mischievous look on her face. “I think there’s one or two things that are kind of alright about you.”

Beca grins to let him know that she’s joking, which in turn makes her dad smile as well. She starts walking down the path to the sidewalk. Her dad calls out her name once, making her turn around again.

“I really am sorry for all that I’ve done to hurt you, Beca,” he tells her earnestly. “And if you’re okay with it, I’d like to try and earn your trust and forgiveness back.”

Beca holds back a chuckle, thinking about how that’s almost exactly what her mom said to her that night on the roof back in Seattle. She opens her mouth to respond with some snarky comeback, but pauses upon seeing how nervous her dad looks. “I’d like that,” she tells him sincerely instead, shooting him one last smile before dropping her board and skating off.

She’s got places to be, after all.

* * *

Beca Mitchell has walked into some pretty weird situations in her life.

Unlocked bathrooms at house parties where two people were very obviously about to have sex.

Teacher’s classrooms after school where said teacher was enjoying some heavy metal to unwind after a long day.

A pizza shop that had gotten robbed only moments before.

None of those had prepared Beca for what she sees upon arriving at Bellas practice.

The first thing that Beca registers as she opens the door to the rehearsal hall is the sound of a whistle blowing, followed soon after by various shouting and screeching. Alarmed, Beca quickens her pace to reveal the scene before her.

Chloe and Aubrey are laying on the ground, Fat Amy kneeling over the top of them with each of her arms wrapped around their necks in a dual headlock. The co-captains each have their arms outstretched towards the pitch pipe, which is on the floor just out of reach from their fingertips. Chloe’s legs flail wildly with her effort.

The seats behind them reveals a whole new level of chaos. Stacie, who is apparently the culprit behind the whistle-blowing, seems to be attempting to climb up the rows of chairs. Her efforts, however, are being thwarted by Cynthia-Rose, who has a hold on the lengthy brunette’s leg and hip. Denise stands near the pair, trying – and failing – to stop the madness. Jessica and Ashley sit curled up together, sobbing.

And on the floor off to the side, Lilly makes snow angels in a puddle of… something. Beca doesn’t even want to know.

Unable to comprehend what the actual hell is happening, Beca relies on her instincts. She rushes towards the brawling group of girls with wide eyes. “Guys, stop! What is going on?” she yells, hoping it will be enough to end it all.

Shockingly, it works.

The noise immediately stops as all the Bellas freeze, heads turned to look in Beca’s direction.

The whistle falls from Stacie’s mouth with a final tweet and lands on the floor with a clutter.

Lilly sits up from her puddle of yuck.

Aubrey snatches up the pitch pipe and slips out from Amy’s grip.

“Nothing,” Aubrey chokes out, struggling up to her feet. “Nothing. This is a Bellas rehearsal.”

“I know, I just,” Beca begins hesitantly as the Bellas attempt to compose themselves, “Wanted to say that I’m sorry. What I did was a really dick move, and I shouldn’t have changed the set without asking you guys. And I definitely shouldn’t have left,” she tacks on at the end. “I let you guys down, and I’m really sorry.”

Her apology is met with silence from the rest of the girls. Aubrey square her shoulders and clenches her jaw. Beca resists the urge to groan- she’d almost forgotten how stubborn their tyrannical leader was.

“And,” Beca continues timidly, “Aubrey, if you would have me, I want back in.”

To Aubrey’s right, Chloe snaps her head around to stare sternly at Aubrey, seemingly trying to force her to speak with her eyes. Beca’s heart clenches at the intensity in Chloe’s gaze.

 Except Aubrey seems content to stay silent. The blonde puts on an impassive expression and looks down at her hands. Beca feels her hopes – as well as her already wounded pride – sink..

Chloe crosses her arms in frustration, but remains silent, looking at Aubrey expectantly. When Aubrey looks up to meet Beca’s eyes again, face still cold and unforgiving, Beca receives her message loud and clear.

Feeling sad and disappointed, Beca turns around to leave. She’s met with the sight of the piano, a chair tucked up to the keys, and an idea pops into her head.

If she was getting kicked out with her tail between her legs, Beca was going to do what she did best: make things difficult.

Beca looks over her shoulder at Aubrey as she slowly reaches out, grabbing onto the back of the metal chair. She begins dragging it behind her as she walks to the door, much like how that poor girl had done when she'd gotten kicked out all those months ago. She hears Aubrey’s name being whispered and stops her retreat, looking back to give her captain one last chance to change her mind.

Aubrey looks down at her hands again.

Beca shakes her head exasperatedly and begins walking again. She’s almost to the door, her pride now thoroughly bruised, when a hasty shout stops her.

“Wait!”

Beca drops the chair back down on all four legs with a thunk. “Thank you, that would have been embarrassing,” she mutters, quickly making her way back over to the group.

“Beca, I know I have been hard on you,” Aubrey starts slowly. Chloe clears her throat and Aubrey glances at her. “Okay, I know I have been hard on everyone here,” she amends, and Beca sees a small smile appear on Chloe’s face at the correction. Aubrey looks at Beca again and holds her head high, bottom lip trembling. “But I am my father’s daughter, and he always says: if at first you don’t succeed, pack your bags.”

Shocked silence fills the room at the words, and Aubrey moves to sit heavily in a chair.

“Jesus,” Amy murmurs under her breath.

“Yeah it’s… really crazy,” Chloe affirms quietly to the Aussie.

Beca shakes her head to find her bearings once again. “Yeah, mine gets on me, too,” she tries to say comfortingly. “Not exactly like that, but,” she adds, mostly to herself, “uh, I guess we don’t really know that much about each other. About most of you, really,” Beca reveals hesitantly, looking around the room. Her eyes meet Chloe’s, and Beca decides that Chloe is the exception to that.

Beca feels like she knows Chloe better than she knows herself, sometimes.

“Well, I’ll confess something that none of you know about me,” Stacie cuts in, forcing Beca to tear her eyes away from Chloe. Stacie takes a deep, steadying breath. “I have a lot of sex.”

“Yeah, we know, Stacie,” Amy tells her, which Beca whole-heartedly agrees with.

A look of confusion overcomes Stacie’s face. “Only because I just told you.”

“This is a good idea,” Beca interjects before the conversation can get any sadder. “That was a pretty bad example, but this is a good idea.” She starts moving chairs into a pathetic circle, being awkwardly thorough as she thinks of her next words.

Contrary to what Beca just said, this was surely a terrible idea.

“Why don’t we all go around the room and… we can all say something about ourselves that nobody else knows?” Beca suggests, sitting down in one of the chairs she’s just finished placing. The rest of the Bellas settle in around the circle as well.

“Okay, I got somethin’,” Cynthia-Rose offers, raising her hand a little and standing up. Relief floods through Beca at the volunteering. “This is hard for me to admit to you guys.”

“Lesbihonest,” Fat Amy tells her solemnly. Beca rolls her eyes, but silently agrees.

“Well, for the last two years,” Cynthia-Rose starts shakily, pushing up the sleeves of her sweatshirt. “I’ve had a serious… gambling problem.”

“What?” Amy asks.

“What?” Beca echoes, completely shocked.

“It started when I broke up with my girlfriend,” Cynthia-Rose reveals.

“Whoop, there it is,” Amy mumbles, followed by an elongated pause. Beca takes the time to look over at Chloe again, only to see that the other girl looks conflicted. Her eyebrows are drawn together as she stares pointedly at a spot on the ground.

Worry fills Beca’s mind at the sight, but she figures they must keep moving forward. “Anyone else?” she asks.

To her left, Lilly raises her hand timidly. “I ate my twin in the womb,” she confesses quietly.

This is the first time Beca has ever actually been able to hear what the quiet girl is saying, and she instantly wants to go back to not being able to hear. Beca whips her head around to see if Chloe understand the confession as well, but sees only confusion in the other girl’s eyes.

“Okay,” Beca stutters out, slightly scared. She immediately zeroes in on Amy, hoping the ridiculous Aussie can bring some lightness to the room. “Fat Amy?”

Amy shrugs. “I’m an open book. I mean, for God’s sake you all call me ‘Fat Amy,’” she jokes, laughing a little. Beca’s eyes soften in affection for her big blonde friend. “See, I guess I’m just not really living if I’m not being one-hundred percent honest,” Amy says seriously, and Beca thinks it is the first sincere thing she’s ever heard the Aussie say. Then, Amy’s face fills with emotion. “And my real name is Fat Patricia.”

Several surprised gasps sound around the circle. Amy grimaces and looks around uncertainly.

Finally, Beca feels as though she can’t stay quiet for any longer. This was her idea, after all.

“Okay,” she says, directing everyone’s attention to her while her own eyes dart around the room nervously. “When I was growing up, music was a pretty fundamental part of my life. My dad was a jazz pianist in college, so he was a big reason for that. Then, at the beginning of my sophomore year, he walked out on us.” Beca was expecting gasps or comments at that, but is grateful when the rest of the girls remain silent. “I was so… angry with him for the longest time. Music kind of became a huge negative thing to me, since I associated it so heavily with him. So I grew to hate it and quit.”

Beca swallows and glances at Chloe, seeing that the other girl is watching Beca intensely. She finds comfort in the familiar gaze, and chooses to focus on the blue of Chloe’s eyes instead of the uncertainty in her heart.

“It wasn’t until I got here and joined the Bellas that I was able to find any joy through music again.” Beca is technically still speaking to the whole group, but with the way she and Chloe are looking at each other it feels like they’re the only people in the room. “So thank you, for showing me how to love music like I did before.”

The look on Chloe’s face is so loving that it makes Beca tear her eyes away before she cries. She looks around the group to gauge people's reactions, and sees most of them with small smiles on their faces. Beca humors them all for another moment before clearing her throat. “So that’s me,” she finishes awkwardly, though still wearing a smile. “Someone else please go.”

Chloe squeezes her eyes shut tightly. “Okay” she breathes out before opening her eyes and shooting to her feet. “Over spring break, I made the courageous decision to remove my nodes.” The reveal is met with sounds of surprise and sympathy, and Chloe nods her head. “I know. The doctor said that I can’t sing above a G-sharp… maybe ever. I thought the season was over,” Chloe laments tearfully and sits back down, shaking her head in anguish.

Guilt immediately fills Beca. She had known that Chloe had nodes, although she didn’t take it as seriously as she probably could have. Chloe had always just brushed off her worries about it, choosing to focus on Beca’s problems instead. And Beca had let her, like the selfish person she is.

Chloe wasn’t selfish, though, and Beca feels incredibly ashamed that she had been too caught up with her hurt feelings to know that Chloe was getting her nodes removed. Beca should have been there with her, but instead she went home, pouting like a little kid who’d had their toy taken away.

Aubrey reaches over to squeeze one of Chloe’s hands comfortingly before she zeroes in on Beca with her eyes. She stands up. “Beca.”

Beca scrambles to her feet.

“What do we do?” Aubrey asks her, in a shocking turn of events. All the Bellas have their eyes on Beca, which Beca ignores as best as she can. Her eyes flicker first to Chloe, taking in the sight of tearful blue eyes, before glancing at the pitch pipe in Aubrey’s hand. Aubrey seems to get the message.

The pitch pipe is chucked at Beca a moment later, which Beca was not expecting. She tries to bring her hands up to catch the small object, but it gets deflected off her spazzy hands instead and rolls into the puddle of yuck on the floor.

Aubrey sighs regretfully. “I’m sorry,” she whispers.

Beca clutches her useless hands together and holds them under her chin. “Maybe not here,” she decides.

* * *

If there was one thing Beca took away from her riff off experience, it was how good the acoustics were in Barden’s mysteriously empty swimming pool.

The night air is luckily warmer tonight than it was during the riff off all that time ago as Beca leads the rest of the Bellas to the center of the pool. “Alright, let’s remix this business,” Beca declares. “Um, Aubrey, would you pick a song for us, please?” she requests, turning to face the others and coming to a halt.

It’s as if Aubrey was expecting the question. “Bruno Mars, 'Just the Way You Are,'"she answers without hesitation.

Beca grins at her in surprise, pleased with her choice of song. She had honestly expected more Ace of Base. “Okay, um,” Beca turns to Chloe. “Chlo, are you okay to take the lead?”

“Yeah,” Chloe confirms, nodding her head with a smile on her face.

Beca clears her throat and shakes out her hands, hoping that she can pull this off. She takes a moment to find a good tempo before using her left hand to conduct as she sings the opening notes to “Just the Way You Are.” She looks at Aubrey, cueing for her to join Beca.

The Bellas all slowly start to add in bits of the introduction, every single pair of eyes locked in on Beca. If Beca was being honest, she would say that she feels so nervous that she could pee herself, but it would be foolish to tell the rest of the girls that. Luckily Beca has had years of practice hiding the way she’s truly feeling, so she continues on as confidently as she can.

When Beca feels like a good foundation for the melody has formed, she nods a little in Chloe’s direction, letting her know that it was okay to come in. Beca stays locked in with Chloe as she sings, feeling warmth inside of her despite the slight chill of the crisp night air.

Beca points at Chloe to tell her to keep going while she comes in with a counter melody: Nelly’s “Just A Dream.” Chloe isn’t fazed by the addition and continues singing confidently, which makes Beca smile proudly.

The Bellas sing through the rest of their song, and although Beca is technically leading them, it feels more like they’re leading themselves. It’s easy, natural.

Dare Beca say, it was even beautiful.

The mashup comes to an end, Beca gesturing for the Bellas to hold out their final notes before cutting them off. Their voices ring out through the empty pool while smiles overtake all of their faces. Beca gives up on all pretenses of a cappella being lame as her mouth breaks out in a grin of her own.

Chloe’s eyes are sparkling with happiness and wonder, and that’s all Beca really cares about, anyways.

They all do their dismissal (on three), discovering that Chloe can now hit the bass notes and that Lilly can, in fact, talk at a normal speaking level. Stacie offers up her dorm for a movie night, which is met with cheers. The Bellas start making their way up the slope of the pool, but Beca stays behind for a moment, as does Chloe.

Chloe’s fingers are twisted together in front of her as she shuffles her feet against the ground a little. The ginger looks up and meets Beca’s gaze shyly, biting her lip.

Beca doesn’t really know what to say, so she slides her hands in her pockets and takes a few timid steps towards Chloe. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Chloe says quietly. “I should apologize for what happened at semis.”

“Forget about it,” Beca tells her with a shake of her head. “I was so stuck in my own head. I overreacted and-”

“No, I need to apologize,” Chloe cuts her off. “I shouldn’t have left you hanging like that when Aubrey went after you. I told you that I’d have your back and then I let you down.” Chloe lowers her eyes to the ground. “I am so sorry, Beca, and I hope that you can forgive me someday.”

Beca chuckles, causing Chloe to look up at her in confusion. “You know, it seems like everyone I know lately has been trying to earn my forgiveness,” she says gently, pulling her hands out of her pockets and taking a few steps closer to Chloe. “But the thing is, you’ve never had to earn anything for me; not my forgiveness, not my trust, not my heart-” Chloe’s breath hitches at that-“none of that.” Beca shrugs. “You’ve had them all from the beginning.”

Chloe’s eyes soften and her shoulders relax. “So what I hear is that I’m forgiven?”

Beca grins sheepishly. “Only if I’m forgiven for being an asshole.”

Chloe laughs. “I think I’ve been used to the asshole thing for a while now,” she teases, then gets serious again. “So are we good?”

“Yeah, we’re good,” Beca confirms. She reaches for Chloe’s hand, loving the way their fingers easily slot together. They start walking up the slope of the pool, ignoring the knowing looks the rest of the Bellas give them from up ahead. A thought occurs to Beca, then, and she bumps her shoulder against Chloe’s lightly. “Hey, I love you, you know,” she says casually, her eyes focused ahead. “In a totally cheesy, gross kind of way.”

Beca looks over at Chloe to see a megawatt smile on the other girl’s face. “Yeah, I know,” she says without a face of doubt. “And I love you, too.”

Chloe takes the moment to stop them, pulling Beca towards her by their linked hands. She presses her lips against Beca's gently, and Beca can't help the happy sigh that escapes her at the action.

“Cool,” Beca says once their kiss ends, making Chloe giggle. Beca is beaming as the two of them walk quickly to catch up with the rest of their friends. The girls give them grief once they get there, but Beca finds she doesn’t mind.

It felt good, choosing not to be miserable anymore. Beca could get used to it.

Chapter Text

“Wait wait wait,” Beca says through a laugh, holding up her hands. Curled up next to her on the couch, Chloe continues giggling, but ceases her story for the time being. “You told Aubrey to puke on you?”

Chloe chuckles some more. “What can I say? I was all fired up and ready to fight.”

“I’m sorry, I think I might have to reevaluate this relationship,” Be ca says, moving as though to stand up from the couch. “I can’t be with someone with a puke kink.”

Chloe gasps and wraps her hands around Beca’s arm to pull her back down next to her. “Shut up, that was not what it was at all,” she defends herself with a playful pout. “Besides, I was really just taking your advice and standing up for myself.”

Beca grins cheekily and leans over to kiss the pout off Chloe’s face. “You have no idea how proud I am to hear you say that, Chlo,” she says sincerely.

They lean back in to share a few more lazy kisses before Chloe pulls away again, one hand trailing casually along the sensitive skin on the back of Beca’s neck. Beca in turn wraps a hand around one of Chloe’s knees where they’re bent up towards Chloe's chest. “So you said relationship,” Chloe points out shyly.

Confusion causes Beca to wrinkle her eyebrows. “I did?”

Chloe nods and begins playing with the many earrings adorning Beca’s ear. “You said that you’d have to reevaluate this relationship,” she explains further, avoiding eye contact. “So does that mean we’re actually in a relationship now?”

Beca blushes. “Well, I mean, I’d be okay with it, but if you don’t want to, we can just-”

“Bec,” Chloe cuts her off gently with a chuckle. Her hand moves from Beca’s ear to her cheek, cupping her face delicately. “Of course I’m okay with it. I love you.”

The smile that comes over Beca’s face is natural. “So you wouldn’t mind if I asked you to be my girlfriend?”

Chloe kisses Beca again, though it’s more just them pushing their smiles together than anything. “I wouldn’t mind one bit.”

Their bubble is only popped by the sound of the front door of the Bella house shutting and Aubrey loudly making her presence known.

“I’m home! Please fix any state of undress you are in before I come in there!”

Beca groans and flops her head down on the back of the couch. “Just a moment of peace is all I’m asking,” she grumbles petulantly.

Chloe only giggles and leans in to peck Beca on the cheek. “It’s safe in here, Bree!”

Aubrey appears around the corner. She nods stiffly at Beca. “Beca,” she says formally.

“Aubrey,” Beca quips back.

It was kind of weird, working with Aubrey. The two of them had decided to join forces in order to come up with a new set list, and, surprisingly, didn’t make all that bad of a team. Beca’s natural ability to put songs together in an arrangement was highlighted by Aubrey’s expert a cappella knowledge, which made for fairly decent – albeit sometimes tense – collaboration.

Since neither Aubrey nor Beca were particularly gifted in the dancing department, Chloe and Stacie had decided to take the reins on coming up with new choreography. Over the past week, all four of them had taken to setting up shop in the rehearsal hall and bouncing ideas off each other, which was honestly a lot of fun. And if Beca occasionally tuned out whatever Aubrey was saying while she watched Chloe work on new moves?

Well, it’s not like she can exactly be held at fault. Chloe is unfairly distracting, especially when she moves her hips like that.

“Hey, guess what,” Chloe says excitedly beside Beca, pulling her out of the visual of Chloe dancing. Beca shakes her head and goes to respond when she realizes Chloe was talking to Aubrey, not her.

“What,” Aubrey supplies from where she’s moved into the kitchen.

“Beca is officially my girlfriend,” Chloe gushes, squeezing Beca’s arm and jostling her, causing Beca’s cheeks to flame a little.

“Weren’t you already girlfriends?” Aubrey asks, seeming not impressed by the information.

Chloe huffs. “Not officially, no,” she pouts. Beca tickles under her knee, effectively clearing the pout off Chloe’s face and making her giggle instead.

“Well congratulations, then,” Aubrey tells them. Beca jumps when Aubrey’s face appears by her own over the back of the couch a moment later. “Let this be your first and final warning, Beca,” she says, deadly serious. “You treat her poorly, and I will rip out your vocals chords myself, no wolves necessary.”

Beca’s eyes widen in fear. “Yes, ma’am,” she squeaks. Aubrey disappears and Beca lets out a sigh of relief. She turns to look at Chloe and sees a look of amusement on her face. “Shut up,” she grumbles.

“You’re cute,” Chloe informs her, reaching out to pat Beca’s cheek before untangling herself from Beca and joining Aubrey in the kitchen, already starting to talk about something that happened to her in class that day. Beca watches her over the back of the couch with a small, fond smile on her face.

Maybe being sort-of friends with Aubrey was weird now, but Beca figured she could live with it. Weird was starting to grow on her, anyways.

* * *

“Just the Way You Are” is playing softly on the overhead speakers when Beca walks into work at the skate shop. She smiles a little, the fond memory of the Bellas all singing together playing through her head.

Her smile drops when she sees Jesse pulling things out of boxes near the back of the store, guilt immediately making its appearance. Although what Beca had said to him at semis wasn’t nearly as bad as what she’d said to the Bellas, she had still acted pretty cold towards him.

Beca drops her bag on the couch on her way over to Jesse and clears her throat. Jesse glances up at her, a defensive look already in his eyes. “Shit, I didn’t know you were coming in today. Let me go turn off the music real fast,” he says, turning towards the office.

“No, dude, it’s fine,” Beca says, placing a hand on his shoulder to halt his movements. Jesse turns back towards her with a questioning look in his eyes. Beca retracts her hand and peers sheepishly up at him. “Look, I was a dick at semis and I shouldn’t have snapped at you like I did. You were just trying to help and I was an asshole,” she rushes out quickly. She pauses to take a breath. “I’m sorry.”

Jesse stares at her impassively for another moment, which makes dread claw in Beca’s gut, but the tension is immediately released when a grin breaks out on his face. “I never thought I’d live to see the day that Beca Mitchell apologized to someone,” he muses, a teasing tone to his words.

The stiffness in Beca’s shoulders relaxes and she slumps forward, head shaking while she laughs a little. “Yeah, well, don’t get used to it,” she fires back, though there’s no real edge to her words. “I still hate you, and all that.”

The smile widens on Jesse’s face. “Glad to hear it,” he says, reaching into his box to pull something else out and placing it on the shelf. Beca just rolls her eyes fondly and reaches out to do the same.

* * *

Beca’s phone rings on a sunny Saturday afternoon, disrupting the calm silence that has permeated the room for the past half hour or so. Kimmy Jin turns to glare at Beca from across the room, and Beca glares right back as she answers the call without checking to see who it is from, pushing aside one of the cups of her headphones. “Hello?” she asks, still staring at her roommate.

“Hey, Bec. How’s it going?”

Upon hearing her father’s voice, Beca rips her eyes away from Kimmy Jin and pushes her headphones to rest around her neck with a start. “Uh, hey, Dad,” she greets awkwardly. From the other end of the bed, Chloe looks curiously up at Beca, their legs entangled comfortably as the other girl studies for her Russian Lit final. Beca chooses to focus on her as she talks. “I’m fine. What’s up?”

“I was wondering if you’d want to join Sheila and I for dinner tomorrow evening,” he says formally. He rushes to continue, “Unless you don’t want to, in which case I would completely understand.”

Beca appreciates that last added bit, because if she was being honest, she really didn’t want to have dinner with them. Things with her dad were better, but they were definitely far from being completely repaired. Plus, Beca still wasn’t a big fan of Sheila, even if she had only actually spoken to the woman a small handful of times, so the thought of spending an evening with the two of them wasn't exactly high on her list of priorities.

Her nose wrinkles as she contemplates his offer, and she opens her mouth to decline when a chuckle from Chloe makes Beca take pause. Chloe has a look of amusement on her face, most likely from whatever expression Beca is making at the moment, and a thought occurs to her.

“Could I bring along a plus one?” Beca asks, watching the way Chloe’s expression becomes curious again.

“Uh, sure!” her dad says, sounding surprised. “That would be fine.”

“Cool, hang on for just a moment,” Beca tells him before holding the phone against her shoulder. “Hey, do you want to have dinner with my dad and Sheila tomorrow?” she inquires, looking at Chloe.

Chloe’s eyebrows rise in surprise. “Me?” she asks, pointing to herself.

Beca rolls her eyes. “No, Kimmy Jin,” she quips, right as Kimmy Jin is headed out the door. The girl turns to glare at Beca, so Beca flashes a sweet smile up at her. After the door has slammed shut, she nudges Chloe’s thigh with her toe. “Yes, you.”

Chloe smiles. “I would love to,” she accepts happily.

Beca grins back. “Cool,” she breathes, pulling the phone back up to her ear. “Okay, we’ll be there.”

“Perfect! See you then!” her dad says enthusiastically, and Beca resists the urge to roll her eyes again at how hard he’s trying. Because even though he’s a little ridiculous, Beca appreciates him for making an effort.

“See you then,” she tells him before hanging up, letting the phone fall into her lap. Beca flops onto her back against her pillows and looks down her nose at Chloe.

Chloe, in turn, sets aside her textbook and crawls over Beca’s body, gently laying on top of Beca. “Taking me to meet the parents?” Chloe asks coyly, settling herself until she’s comfortable. “Must be getting pretty serious.”

Beca blushes and groans, hands coming up to cover her face. “I didn’t even think about that,” she bemoans, panic beginning to build in her chest. “I was just thinking about having you there for backup in case things are awkward. I can take Jesse or Amy or something if you don’t want to meet them.”

“Beca, it’s fine,” Chloe assures her with a chuckle, gently prying Beca’s hands away from her face. Beca pouts. “I was only teasing you. I don’t mind meeting them at all.”

Beca peers cautiously up at Chloe. “Are you sure?” she checks, one last time. "Dinner might turn bad; things still aren’t exactly great between the three of us.”

Chloe leans down and presses a gentle kiss to Beca’s lips. “I think it’ll be aca-awesome.”

* * *

Miraculously, Beca follows through with her commitment and she and Chloe find themselves on her father’s doorstep at 6:30 sharp the next evening. Beca reaches out a hand and knocks on the door, somewhat hesitant.

Her dad opens the door with a smile. “Hey, Beca! So glad to see you,” he says enthusiastically.

Beca quirks an eyebrow. “You invited me here, so,” she quips lightheartedly. Her dad’s smile turns embarrassed, so Beca is quick to move on. “This is my girlfriend, Chloe,” she says quickly, not processing her words before speaking. Beca’s eyes widen.

It’s not that she hadn’t been planning on telling her dad that they were dating, it’s just that she was thinking that she’d reveal that small fact a little more… delicately. She never actually came out to her father – well technically she’d never come out to her mother, either; the poor woman had just happened to walk into Beca’s room at the wrong moment – since he left before Beca had truly figured out her sexuality. Beca didn’t really care if he didn’t approve; he’d lost that right when he walked out on them. Still, it probably would have been best to find out his thoughts on the whole “gay” thing before throwing her girlfriend in his face.

Too late now.

Her dad’s face morphs into one of shock that has Beca’s stomach clenched in anxiety for a moment before it quickly changes into a look of pleasant surprise instead. “It’s nice to meet you, Chloe,” he says kindly, holding out a hand for Chloe to shake, which Chloe accepts. “I’m Dr. Mitchell. I teach comparative literature here.”

The tension in Beca’s shoulders releases and she rolls her eyes. “He’s really proud of that fact, apparently,” she grumbles playfully while they walk through the door and into the house. The three of them make their way into the kitchen, where Sheila is busy finishing up with setting the table. She smiles kindly at Beca as they enter.

“Beca, it’s nice to see you again,” Sheila greets warmly. Her attention shifts to Chloe. “And who’s this?”

Beca is about introduce Chloe when she jumps in herself. “I’m Chloe, Beca’s girlfriend,” Chloe says with a smile. Beca grins a little as the words Beca’s girlfriend leave Chloe’s mouth.

The corners of Sheila’s eyes crinkle with her smile. “Well, it’s nice to meet you, Chloe. Thank you for joining us tonight.”

“Thank you for having me,” Chloe responds charmingly. “Do you need help with anything?”

Beca watches the exchange in awe, wondering how the hell she got someone as socially adept as Chloe to ever fall for her. Beca has never been able to talk to Sheila as easily as Chloe is now.

Sheila places a large casserole dish in the center of the table and wipes her hand on her apron. “I think we’re ready to start eating, actually,” she says with finality. Sheila clasps her hands together in front of her. “Shall we?”

* * *

As the four of them relocate to the living room after dinner for some post-dinner drinks, Beca decides that bringing Chloe here with her was perhaps the greatest decision she has ever made. Conversation had flowed relatively easily, and any tense moments that occurred had been quickly smoothed over by Chloe asking a question about Beca’s dad’s job, or Sheila’s pasta recipe, or anything else that would help the tension in the room dissipate.

Even if she hadn’t already been sure of it before, Beca would know for sure that she was in love with Chloe.

Beca drops down onto the couch across from the one her father and Sheila sit on, Chloe settling comfortably next to her a moment later. Beca eyes the wine-filled glass in Chloe’s hand enviously; Beca was the only one without a drink, seeing as she was technically underage still and her father was nothing if not a stickler for rules. Chloe catches Beca’s look and grins at her teasingly, lifting her glass to her lips for a sip. Beca pouts slightly in response and turns her head in the opposite direction.

The sight that meets Beca’s eyes makes her take pause in surprise. Beca hadn’t noticed it the one other time she’d been to this house, seeing as most of that visit had consisted of arguing with her dad and Sheila, but there against her father’s living room wall stands an upright piano. It’s a nice piano- dark, shiny mahogany wood freshly dusted and free of sheet music cluttering the music stand. The cover is down over the keys, causing Beca to wonder if it ever actually got played or if it was all just for looks.

Her dad saying her name forces Beca’s attention away from the instrument and back towards the conversation. “What?” she questions dumbly, not knowing what was just said.

“Chloe was just telling us about your upcoming competition,” her dad repeats patiently. “Why didn’t you tell us sooner? National finals! That’s so exciting!” he says enthusiastically.

Beca shrugs and glances at Chloe, slightly embarrassed. “Uh, I guess I just forgot about it is all,” she responds weakly, causing Chloe to snort softly into her wine glass. Beca elbows her gently in the side. “Lots going on with finals and stuff.”

Another noise from Chloe, another nudge from Beca.

“Well, we will definitely be going to watch you guys perform,” her dad says with finality. Sheila takes a sip from her wine and nods her head in affirmation, humming in agreement. “It’s always fun to spend a weekend in New York when we get the opportunity.”

“Great,” Beca supplies awkwardly, not totally convinced that her dad will actually follow through with his claim, based on prior experiences and all.

“Are you a music fan, Dr. Mitchell?” Chloe asks before the pause that follows is too long. Beca whips her head around to look at her, unsure of where the question came from.

Chloe simply lets her arm come up to rest behind Beca on the back of the couch, sipping delicately on her wine while her eyes stay trained on Beca's father.

Her dad’s eyebrows rise in surprise before he shakes his head with a small chuckle. “Yes, actually. I played a little piano back in the day, years ago,” he muses, hand reaching up to rub his chin. “I don’t really get around to all that much playing anymore, unfortunately. Life gets in the way, you know? Besides,” he continues, looking mischievously at Beca, “My playing could never compare to what Beca can do.”

Beca blushes at the praise and rolls her eyes. “Dad,” she complains petulantly.

Chloe raises an eyebrow. “Really? She probably learned a lot from you, though, right?”

Her dad grins. “I might have shown her a thing or two every now and then.”

Beca groans.

Chloe smiles. “Would you mind showing us some of your skills, then?” she asks challengingly. Beca’s eyes widen and she stares at Chloe in shock.

“I don’t know,” her dad starts hesitantly, glancing over at the piano. Sheila pats him on the arm.

“Oh, come on, Warren,” she urges lightly. “You never play that thing anymore. Make it worth our money.”

All three women stare at Beca’s dad expectantly before he lets out a breath. “Alright,” he relents, pushing himself to his feet and walking over to the piano. Chloe and Sheila cheer in success while Beca just peers curiously at her father as he uncovers the keys and lowers himself onto the bench.

The tune he starts playing is some snappy little Scott Joplin rag that he taught Beca years ago- one that she still knows to this day, and Beca sees Chloe’s eyes light up in recognition when she hears the song that Beca has played for her before. Beca, for one, stares at her dad with mixed emotions. She hasn’t seen him even touch a piano in years, at least since things were still semi-fine between him and Beca’s mom. Watching him play again, something that used to be so familiar to Beca, is now a bit of a surreal experience.

His playing comes to end, and Chloe and Sheila immediately clap for him, showering him with praises about how talented he is. Beca fights to keep the grin off her face when she sees the sheepish look her father wears.

“Sorry for all the mistakes, I’m a little rusty,” he says modestly, turning around to face everyone else. Beca rolls her eyes.

Always the perfectionist, her father.

“Oh, shush, that was wonderful,” Sheila admonishes lightly. “It’s just nice to hear you play again.”

Chloe pipes up next with a mischievous look in her eye. “You and Beca wouldn’t happen to know any duets, would you?”

Beca’s head snaps around so that she can glare at Chloe harshly. “Chloe,” she hisses, teeth clenched.

Her dad scratches his head. “We might now one or two,” he ponders. He flips around and places his fingers back on the keys. “If I can remember them, that is,” he trails off, plunking out a melody cautiously.

“I don’t think I remember any,” Beca deadpans, staring at the floor in front of her.

“Oh, I’m sure that’s not true,” Chloe says brightly, pushing Beca to her feet. “Go play piano with your dad, would you?” Beca turns around to glare at her again, but softens up immediately upon seeing the sweet look on Chloe’s face. “For me, Becs?” Chloe asks innocently.

Beca sighs in defeat. “Fine,” she mutters, dragging her feet over to the piano to join her father on the bench. She plops down on his right side and easily starts playing the tune that he was just getting into, her hands moving automatically due to muscle memory. She sees the surprise on her dad’s face upon her joining him, and can’t help the smirk that forms on her lips at the expression.

They go throughout the song playfully with one another, and Beca feels herself relax significantly as they do so. Beca lets herself speed up the tempo a little, seeing if her dad will follow her, which he does easily with a twinkle in his eye. By the time their song comes to an end, the two of them are grinning like fools, and Beca can’t even find it in herself to be the least bit grumpy about it.

Chloe and Sheila clap while Beca and her dad smile at each other. It felt just like old times to Beca, and she had a feeling her dad felt the same way. He holds up a hand for a high-five, which Beca gives him without hesitation.

“Still want to quit?” her dad asks with a knowing look in his eye.

Beca can only grin and shake her head fondly. “I guess not,” she admits without a trace of bitterness.

Chapter Text

Beca gulps and forces away the tears threatening to rise in her eyes. The sound of excited chatter reaches her ears from her place backstage, which only adds to her nervousness. Beca should be excited like everyone else, really. It was her first choir concert, after all; something that she had been anxiously looking forward to ever since she became a third-grader and was therefore able to join her school’s choir.

She goes and peeks out from behind the curtain, her stomach dropping at the sight of so many people waiting for the show to start. Feeling as though she may be sick, Beca rushes out the backstage door, ignoring the questioning looks her friends and teacher send her.

The cool, refreshing water from the water fountain in the hall helps the sick feeling in Beca’s stomach, but it does nothing to quell the panic gripping her at the thought of performing. The only option at this point was to go home; there was no way she was going out in front of all those people.

A door opens to her right, causing Beca’s attention to snap in that direction. Relief floods through her at the sight of her father walking through the door. “Daddy,” she whimpers, rushing down the hall and into his waiting arms.

“Hey, Bug. What’re you doing out here? The concert’s about to start,” her dad says lightly, crouching down in front of Beca and looking at her in concern.

“I can’t go out there,” Beca sniffles, bottom lip quivering. “There’s too many people. I’m gonna mess up and they’re gonna laugh at me.”

Her dad chuckles kindly and reaches up a hand to wipe a lone tear off Beca’s cheek. “Why do you think you’re going to mess up?”

Beca hiccups a little and shrugs, unsure of how she knows, only knowing that she knows it will happen.

“You know what I think?” her dad asks at her silence. Beca peers curiously at him, but still says nothing. “I think that no one out there will know if you mess up, and that no one will care even if you do mess up.” Beca’s eyebrows knit together in confusion.

“Why?” Beca asks simply.

“Beca, everyone out there is there to see you perform, and for no other reason,” her dad tells her solidly, placing his steady hands on Beca's shoulders and smiling at her comfortingly. “They’re all so proud of you already, mistakes and all, just like your mother and I are. Besides,” he adds with a wink. “if you forget the words, you can just mouth the word ‘watermelon.’ No one will know the difference.”

Beca mouths the word silently, testing it out. She beams at her dad, all previous nervousness she had felt gone. Her dad smiles in return and wraps his arms tight around her.

“You’re a star, Bug,” he whispers in her ear, causing Beca’s smile to grow even wider. He pulls away and looks seriously in her eyes. “Now get out there and prove it.”

The concert goes off without a hitch, leaving Beca to wonder why she was ever nervous in the first place. She looks at her parents during the performance and revels in the rush that music has always given her.

Beca doesn’t even need to use the watermelon technique once.

* * *

Beca peeks out at the audience from the stage’s wing, the familiar nervous fluttering she always gets before a performance stirring low in her belly. There’s a full crowd here to watch the finals, much larger than any of the other competitions they’ve been to so far.

A hand slips into Beca’s and her nerves immediately dissipate at the feeling. She turns around to face Chloe. “Nervous?” Chloe asks her in concern.

Beca shakes her head. “Nah, we’ve got this in the bag,” she answers confidently, causing Chloe to smile, which Beca automatically mirrors.

The group onstage finishes up their set, which leaves the Trebles to start preparing themselves to perform. Jesse passes by Beca, so she catches his arm before he can get too far. “Hey, good luck out there, loser,” she tells him fondly. He grins at her in response.

“You’re not even ready for the awesomeness that’s about to go down, grumpy,” he retorts playfully. His eyes shift to Chloe standing next to her. “Chloe,” he greets mischievously, a twinkle in his eye. Beca rolls her eyes good naturedly and pushes him away just as the announcer on stage announces the Treblemakers.

Jesse holds off on going onstage until the Trebles start singing, the crowd cheering at his entrance. He shoots Beca a wink right before he starts singing, which makes her grin and shake her head fondly.

The Trebles are good. Really good, in fact. Beca can’t help but smile when Jesse’s roommate Benji, who Beca has spoken to a handful of times, starts singing his solo, obvious happiness radiating off of him. Chloe squeezes her hand and nudges Beca, drawing Beca’s eyes to her. Upon seeing the teasing glint in Chloe’s eyes, Beca immediately forces the smile off her face and lightly elbows Chloe back.

Chloe only giggles in response. The audacity.

The end of the Treble’s performance is met with thunderous applause, which is unsurprising considering the fact they are the obvious crowd favorite. Still, Beca’s not worried in the slightest.

The Bellas all gather to stand in a loose circle, everyone trading nervous glances with one another. Eventually all their eyes settle on Beca, and Beca feels her heart squeeze at the fact that these women – her friends – all look at her to lead them now.

The feeling is unfamiliar, but so incredibly welcome.

“I love you awesome nerds,” Beca tells them all with a gentle smile. Beca sees the girls smile in response.

“Yeah,” Amy pipes up from beside Beca. “You guys are the best. Even though some of you are pretty thin, I think that you all have fat hearts, and that’s what matters," she continues, becoming slightly choked up. “Okay, let’s just smash this.”

Right as Amy finishes speaking, they hear an enthusiastic “Barden Bellas” from the stage, which is their cue to walk out. The crowd cheers wildly and whistles as they walk on stage, and Beca is silently grateful that she and Chloe were able to convince Aubrey to ditch the flight attendant get-ups.

Beca takes her place near the back of the stage and looks out into the crowd as she waits for the rest of the Bellas to get in position. Her eyes scan the numerous people until they land on her father’s and Sheila’s faces, both of them cheering loudly for the Bellas. Beca’s eyes soften at the sight, surprised that they ended up coming after all.

Taking a small breath to ready herself, Beca pulls out the (cleaned and disinfected) pitch pipe and blows gently into in, a quiet, high-pitched F sounding from the small instrument. Beca tucks it back in her pocket and counts the Bellas in with a soft voice. “One, two, three, four…”

If the Trebles’ performance was good, the Bellas’ is downright phenomenal. The energy in the auditorium triples, sending adrenaline coursing through Beca’s veins throughout the entire set. Beca forgets why she ever stopped doing music while she performs, trading smiles and excited glances with her friends as they all sing their hearts out.

The end of their set rushes at them in a flurry of emotions, and the resulting cheers from the audience are deafening to Beca’s ears. The Bellas all throw their arms around each other to accept the applause before breaking off to excitedly hug each other, shouting in obvious victory. Beca turns to Aubrey, and the two of them exchange a look of understanding and joy before hugging, which doesn’t feel as weird as Beca had expected it to.

It still feels a little weird, though.

Beca pulls away from the hug only to feel a pair of arms loop around her torso tightly. The body pressed against her back is familiar, so Beca turns around and smiles at Chloe for only a moment before holding the other girl’s face between her hands and kissing her soundly, right there on the stage at Lincoln Center.

They’re forced apart by the Bellas pushing them teasingly, and Beca can’t even find it in herself to care. She throws an arm around Chloe’s shoulders and pumps a fist in the air, screaming a cry of victory of her own.

* * *

The next time Beca and Chloe have a moment to talk with each other is the party after they’ve been named national a cappella champions.

God, Beca was such a nerd now.

They’ve each a had a few drinks- not enough to be drunk, but certainly enough to have a nice buzz going on. So they’re both in understandably good moods when Beca drags them off to make out in some lonely corner of whatever bar they’ve been celebrating at.

After several minutes of heated, alcohol-fueled kissing, Chloe pulls away to catch her breath. “Beca,” she pants, bringing her hands up to slide into Beca’s hair. Not pulling, just holding.

“Mhm,” Beca hums distractedly, turning them slightly to push Chloe gently into the wall. She begins to kiss her way lightly down Chloe’s neck, nipping playfully every so often.

“There’s something, I need-” Chloe gasps sharply at a firmer bite from Beca-“Need to tell you.”

“I’m listening,” Beca responds unconvincingly, still focused on her task at hand. She brings up a hand to run over Chloe’s prominent abs. “Intently.”

Chloe sighs in contentment and doesn’t say anything for moment, which makes Beca believe she’s not going to say anything after all. She works her mouth back up to connect their lips again when Chloe finally speaks. “I failed my Russian lit final.”

Beca freezes and her eyebrows furrow in confusion. She leans back from Chloe slightly to look into uncertain blue eyes. “And you’re telling me this now because…” she questions, raising one eyebrow in amusement.

Chloe untangles her hands from Beca’s hair and rests them instead on her shoulders. Beca pulls away a little more and rests her own hands safely on Chloe’s hips, holding them still there. “I needed to pass the final to pass the class,” Chloe says, squeezing her eyes shut. “I got a 53% on the final, so now I can’t pass the class. That class was one of my last credits I needed for graduation.” Chloe’s eyes open once more, and Beca sees fear prominent in them. “I can’t graduate, Beca,” Chloe whispers.

Beca’s eyes widen in realization at Chloe’s words. “Holy shit,” she breathes, pulling away from Chloe all together. She looks at the ground for a moment before looking back up at Chloe. “Holy shit,” Beca repeats.

“What does this mean for us?” Chloe asks quietly, so quiet that Beca almost doesn’t hear her over the sound of the bar around them. Beca’s brow furrows again.

“That’s what you’re worried about?” she questions Chloe, shocked.

Chloe nods her head slowly. “The class I can make up, but you,” Chloe’s breath hitches as she thinks through her words. “But you’re leaving Barden to go home and now I don’t even have the option to go with you.”

Beca’s own breathing stalls at that and her eyes soften. “I didn’t know you’d been thinking about doing that,” she says gently, stepping closer to Chloe again to lace their fingers together.

Chloe smiles sadly. “I love you, and I want to be wherever you are,” she says shyly.

The corner of Beca’s mouth quirks up in a small smirk. “Well it’s a good thing I’m staying at Barden, then,” she reveals slyly.

Chloe’s eyes widen and her mouth drops open in surprise. “You are?” she asks excitedly, hands coming up to grip Beca’s biceps. “Why? Since when?”

Beca shrugs nonchalantly, smile still playing at the edges of her mouth as she looks upwards. “Oh, you know. Barden kind of grew on me this year. I figured I could stick around for a few more years, seeing as I didn’t know what to do with my life anyways.” Beca looks back at Chloe and sees that the ginger’s eyes are shining with happiness. “And the fact that you’ll be here longer gives me all the more reason to stay.”

Chloe laughs in elation, leaning in to kiss Beca, and Beca knows that she’s made the right decision. And sure, Chloe may have failed Russian lit, and there was probably more that they needed to talk about with that, but Beca figured that was a conversation for another day.

Besides, it’s not like Chloe will fail the second time around, anyways. Everything would be fine.

* * *

Six months later

“Listen up, aca-ballers! I have been rejected by the army, shoved into a Dora the Explorer backpack, and pushed into the girl’s locker room wearing nothing but suspenders. But no matter; I am in the world that I love. And with the assistance of my boy, Justin-”

“My liege.”

“I launch this year’s auditions.” Tommy pauses his monologue to survey the crowd in front of him. Beca rolls her eyes at the theatrics of it all. Tommy takes a breath to continue. “Belly roll,” he instructs Justin, to which the large boy obliges, patting his hands against his belly. “The most recent ICCA National Champion winners get to pick the audition song.”

Everyone’s eyes in the auditorium immediately shift to the large trophy sitting on the table in front of the Bellas. Fat Amy had insisted they bring it with them, even though it wasn’t strictly necessary to do so, and Beca had not been inclined to tell her no.

Beca grins and leans in to consult first with Chloe to her left, then Amy to her right. Upon getting approval from the rest of the girls as well, Beca clears her throat and reclines back in her seat, throwing an arm casually over the back of Chloe’s chair. Beca smirks.

“Alright, nerds. Let’s go with…”